SANTA CLARA, Calif. – New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps will have to weigh his striking options carefully when the Revs open their season against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
Saër Sène (left knee swelling) missed out on a place in the 19-man travel party, and José Moreno is not set to link up with the club until next week. So Heaps will likely choose from Blake Brettschneider, Fernando Cárdenas and Diego Fagundez to fill the front line.
The uncertainty up top extends the fierce battle for places that the trio — plus rookies Mike Roach and Alec Purdie — waged during preseason.
“Every time you step on the field, you're fighting for minutes and fighting for starting positions,” Brettschneider told MLSsoccer.com after training on Thursday. “We have a competitive group. We have a lot of guys who are capable of being starters. Unfortunately, not everybody will start every week. It keeps that competitive fire going. Every training session has a higher degree of intensity because of it, which is good for us and will help us in the long run.”
Preseason Highlights: NE 3, LA 2
Similar adjustments will take place at left back with Chris Tierney ruled out through suspension after a last-second dismissal at Toronto FC in the final game of 2011. Darrius Barnes featured in that role several times last season and will likely assume those duties once again on Saturday night.
“I feel comfortable,” Barnes said. “As you saw last year, I played the majority of the season out there. I can't do anything but get a little more comfortable out there. I feel like I'm a step ahead this year with that perspective. Jay's used me out wide and in the center. I think it's valuable to me and to the team for me to be a versatile player.”
The accepted wisdom on San Jose's Buck Shaw Stadium reads like a thin, narrow novel. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to the New England players when they went through their paces on Thursday afternoon that the well-kept field’s dimensions are 115 feet by 74 feet.
Myth dispelled, the Revs believe they can roll out their possession-oriented approach on Saturday night.
“We'll be looking to play our game,” midfielder Clyde Simms said. “The grass is perfect. Hopefully it'll be a little wet on game day, and we'll really be able to get the ball moving. I think that's one of our strengths: keeping the ball, especially through the midfield. That's something we've done well so far in preseason and something we look forward to carrying over to the regular season.”