Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Eastern Conference rivals will open their 2014 campaign on Saturday as the Houston Dynamo welcome the New England Revolution to BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston has been a model of consistency since arriving in Texas in 2006 and last season followed that formula as the club reached the Eastern Conference final before falling, 2-1, on aggregate to eventual champions Sporting Kansas City.
Keeping with the consistency theme, there were 13 players on the Dynamo roster last season who played at least 1,600 minutes, and the team will return 11 from that group this term.
Adam Moffat and Bobby Boswell are the two who won't be back, as Moffat was traded to Seattle last September for Servando Carrasco, while Boswell's option wasn't picked up and he made his way to D.C.
Moffat will be replaced by Warren Creavalle, while Boswell's spot could be occupied by either Eric Brunner or David Horst in central defense next to Jermaine Taylor.
Houston also became the first team to make use of the intraleague loan rule when they acquired Tony Cascio from Colorado. The 23-year-old netted three goals with three assists in 29 appearances for the Rapids last season, and he will compete for playing time with Brad Davis, Andrew Driver, Boniek Garcia and Brian Ownby.
Will Bruin returns as the team's leading scorer with 10 goals last year, while head coach Dominic Kinnear will hope for more of the same from Giles Barnes, who contributed nine goals and two assists in his first full season in Texas.
The Revolution had a surprisingly good season last term with a stable of young, exciting players. Head coach Jay Heaps guided his team into the postseason for the first time since 2009 and the club looks poised to take the next step.
In order for that to occur, however, the club will need to find a reliable forward to take up some of the scoring load in the absence of Frenchman Saer Sene, who suffered a broken leg late last season.
The answer could be Teal Bunbury, who came to New England via trade from Sporting Kansas City to replace the departed Juan Agudelo, who is now plying his trade for FC Utrecht in the Netherlands.
The 27-year-old looked like the future of the team when he bagged 11 goals in 25 games in 2012. But he sustained an ACL injury toward the end of the campaign and was limited at the start of last year, which was a big reason why he only netted five goals in 24 matches in his second season.
But Sene was bitten by the injury bug again last October in a match against the Montreal Impact when he sustained a dislocated ankle and a fractured fibula in a challenge from Montreal's Davy Arnaud.
In the midfield, New England has two up-and-coming stars in 19-year-old Diego Fagundez and former No. 3 overall draft selection Kelyn Rowe.
Fagundez led the way with 13 goals and seven assists last season, while Rowe notched eight goals and eight assists in his sophomore season in New England.
Jose Goncalves was one of the best defenders in MLS last year, and along with Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares and Chris Tierney, New England has few questions in defense.
In three matches between the sides last season, both teams won once with a 1-1 draw in the sides' final meeting on Sept. 28.