Bruce Arena says Sunday’s showdown with Los Angeles FC will provide an opportunity for New England Revolution to see “where we really are.”
LAFC welcome the Revs to BMO Stadium in a meeting between the past two Supporters’ Shield winners, with Steve Cherundolo’s side also going on to win the MLS Cup last season.
After a disappointing campaign last time out in which they failed to even make the playoffs, New England have started the 2023 season with back-to-back victories.
But veteran coach Arena is not getting carried away by those wins over Charlotte FC and Houston Dynamo, with the trip to Los Angeles a bigger litmus test for the season ahead.
“A lot of the pieces look good, but I’d forewarn you that we’re only two games in and I think Sunday’s test against LAFC is going to be a real interesting game,” Arena said.
“It’ll tell us where we are really. There are 32 games left in the regular season, so we’ve got to take everything in our stride.
“All the teams in the league are a little bit sloppy at this point in time and it generally takes, in this league, a couple of months before teams start getting in good form.”
LAFC have themselves made a winning start to the season, albeit with just one game played so far – a 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers – as their match with Los Angeles Galaxy was called off.
Cherundolo’s men were in continental action in midweek, beating Alajuelense 3-0 in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie.
Despite having a big league match against the Revs, Cherundolo elected to name a strong starting line-up and will do so again for next week’s second leg.
“The danger was always there to try to rotate too much and you think you are already ahead or one round further,” he said. “That will not happen to us.
“We are at the beginning of our season and our starters still need valuable minutes and fitness. So we will field a similar team (next week).”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Los Angeles FC – Giorgio Chiellini
Veteran defender Chiellini was signed by LAFC to strengthen the defense, but his quality also told at the other end of the field in the win against Portland Timbers. The ex-Italy international opened his side’s account for the season, with that his first goal for club or country since August 2019 when netting for Juventus against Parma.
New England Revolution – Bobby Wood
Wood assisted one and scored another in the Revs’ victory against Houston Dynamo in an impressive attacking display. The 30-year-old contributed to eight goals with Real Salt Lake across the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but never more than one in a single game.
MATCH PREDICTION – LAFC WIN
The Revs have won their first two games of the season for the first time in their MLS history, doing so by an aggregate score of 4-0.
Arena’s men face a tougher test this weekend, though, against an LAFC side that have themselves won two from two across all competitions in 2023.
The only previous meeting between the sides in California finished in a 1-1 draw in 2018, but Los Angeles will be targeting all three points on Sunday.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Los Angeles FC -55.2 percent
New England Revolution -19.8 percent
Draw -25 percent