And so we come to it at last.
On Saturday evening, the New England Revolution opens its 26th season of competition on the road against the Chicago Fire (8:30 p.m., WBZ-TV), and suffice it to say, there is a great deal of optimism surrounding this squad entering the 2021 campaign. When the entirety of a starting XI that shockingly went to the Eastern Conference Final after a regular season where the team struggled to find form, had difficulty winning at home, and practically limped to the postseason is returning, the optimism heading into this year is well deserved.
Of course, there is a flip side to that, and the pessimistic side of Revs Colony rears its head and bares its fangs. Sure, there were signings over the offseason, but no one has really seen what they can do (insert our deranged attack on Major League Soccer’s non-sensical 75-mile preseason thingy about broadcasts, which is absolutely asinine in a world full of VPN’s, here). There’s a question about if the team has truly improved and if Bruce Arena did enough to get this team past defending champeen Columbus, as well as the Atlantas, the LAFCs, the Torontos, the Seattles, etc. There’s a question of how soon will Icelandic international Arnór Traustason be involved with the team (spoiler alert: he’s currently in Health and Safety protocols and is unavailable for the weekend). A question of Christian Malfa’s fitness. Questions about the defending. Look on the #NERevs hashtag on Twitter and you can find any one of these questions and more.
But there is reason to be optimistic about New England’s season: Carles Gil is at full health after missing most of 2020 with his Achilles injury, and in the two preseason matches that we were able to watch against LA Galaxy, he was masterful — especially in game two. The offense — namely 2020 designated player signing Adam Buksa — found its boots. And if the defense can be the 2020 Revolution defense and limit goals/scoring opportunities in front of Matt Turner, then yes, this New England team can go far, and compete for trophies.
That is why New England has to make a solid effort and claim all three points against the Fire at Soldier Field this weekend. One point can help, sure, and you want to claim at least one on the road, but with last year’s 2-1 win at Chicago in mind, three points are essential. Three points will go a long way.
Chicago may be one of these teams where you don’t know what you’ll see from week to week, especially given its form during the preseason. Its final match was a 3-2 defeat to Vancouver, so this Fire defense is capable of yielding goals. But it can score, too, with Robert Beric the focal point.
We have seen this Revolution side look absolutely vicious on the counterattack in preseason, and we presume we’ll see the Fire give up plenty of space for New England to work. And with the talent in the attacking half of the field for New England, they can make space for themselves, too. First touches are so important.
So, too, are first impressions. Saturday night is massive, for sure — and it’s my hope that no one presses the panic button after 90 minutes should the result not go New England’s way. Wishful thinking?
2020 is now officially in the rear-view mirror, gang. One hundred and two points are now on offer. Bring on Saturday night and the rest of 2021.
The 26th season of Major League Soccer kicks off with a pair of all-Western Conference matches later tonight: Houston hosts San Jose at 8 p.m. ET, while Seattle hosts Minnesota United at 9:30 p.m.
The rest of the weekend sees Montreal hosting Toronto at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by Orlando City host Atlanta (3 p.m. ET, UniMas), LAFC hosting newboys Austin FC (6 p.m. ET, FOX), DC United hosting NYCFC, Dallas hosting Colorado, New York Red Bull hosting Sporting Kansas City, and Nashville hosting Cincinnati.
On Sunday, Inter Miami hosts LA Galaxy (3 p.m., ABC), MLS Cup holders Columbus Crew hosting Supporter’s Shield holders Philadelphia (5:30 p.m., FS1), and Vancouver hosting Portland in the final match of the weekend.
Still one more week until USL Championship gets its season underway, but two more weeks until Hartford Athletic gets started.
At USL League One, Revs II gets its home slate underway Saturday afternoon (5 p.m. ET) when it hosts the Richmond Kickers. Los Revitos will look to build on its 1-nil win over Fort Lauderdale last weekend, in what was the only League One tilt on the docket.
This weekend, there are two: Fort Lauderdale goes to South Georgia Saturday at 7 p.m.
Only one match in the NWSL Challenge Cup this weekend, as OL Reign gets its season underway when it hosts Houston tonight (10 p.m. ET, Paramount Plus). By the end of the day, all teams in NWSL will have played at least once so far, with Houston, Washington, Orlando, Chicago, Portland, and Racing Louisville having played twice.
Keep in mind that only the first-place winners in each conference advance to the playoffs.
Speaking of the NWSL, there’s been some comment this week about 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie, who has trained with the Portland Thorns but cannot sign with the club. Personally, NWSL should let her sign. She’s obviously good enough… but I’m wondering if the league doesn’t want to see Moultrie become another Freddy Adu.
Locally, the Bay State Soccer League enters week four, and the Ocean State Soccer League gets week two underway this weekend.
Looking at some of the scores in the BSSL top flight, you have to tip your hat toward Brockton FC. The lads from the Shoe City are putting up amazing crooked numbers, including a 7-1 victory over Providence City FC last weekend. Two days later, a 5-1 win over Eagles. They have this weekend off in the BSSL and gets the Broadway Gunners — another side putting up sizable goal numbers — next weekend.
Also getting some eyebrow raises from me: FC Bebbanbürg. It is 0-3, but in the last two matches have scored some big crooked numbers. Looking forward to seeing what it does against Albania United tomorrow afternoon in Waltham.
Ocean State has four matches on Sunday.
Werner Fricker Cup matches also being contested this weekend.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the football this weekend.