The 2014 MLS regular season started in earnest two weeks ago and the Revolution began their campaign losing 4-0 at Houston on March 8 then 1-0 last Saturday at Philadelphia. New England’s home opener is this Saturday (2 p.m., CSNNE) at Gillette Stadium vs. Vancouver (1-0-1). Despite the initial two losses, hopes are high in Foxboro as New England made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 last fall.
With head coach Jay Heaps back for his third season at Gillette and many of the same standout players in the lineup, the Revolution should be expected to at least improve on last year’s finish. Much like the NHL and Olympic hockey, this is a unique year in MLS because the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins June 12 and ends July 13. New England basically has three weeks between games in June as they host New York on June 8 then return June 28 vs. Philadelphia.
Three Players to Watch
With Matt Reis retired, Shuttleworth no longer has to look over his shoulder. He is the Revolution’s starting goaltender whereas he made 22 starts last season but Reis handled all the big games down the stretch and in the postseason. His job security is shown by the fact that Heaps stuck with him after he allowed four goals in the season opener. Granted New England’s defense was weak that night, so it likely wouldn’t have mattered who was in net. Shuttlesworth is 26-years-old and his backup Brad Knighton is 29.
New England traded a 2015 first-round pick to Kansas City to get Bunbury, a talented young striker who has made appearances for the U.S. national team. Bunbury played in only 12 games last season after tearing his ACL in 2012, but if he can regain his previous form, he could be one of the top goal-scoring stars in MLS. If the first two games are any indication, putting the ball in the net could be an issue for New England. Bunbury has started both games this season and has played the entire 90 minutes each time, so he must be feeling healthy.
It didn’t take long last season for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to prove he was worthy of his lofty expectations. Farrell is only 21 so it’s not hard to see him being a defensive leader on the Revolution for a very long time. The Louisville, Ky. native had a minor injury and missed the season opener but returned last week. Not surprisingly, the Revs allowed three fewer goals. Of note, Farrell didn’t score any goals last season so he’s growing a beard this season until he finds the net.
Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate