The New England Revolution begin 2013 looking to end their longest playoff drought.
First, they'd like to end quite a long one in Chicago.
The Revolution become the final team to start the 18th MLS season Saturday night when they try to end a nearly seven-year-old road skid to the Fire, whose season began by matching the most lopsided defeat in team history.
New England has failed to reach the playoffs for three straight years, going 9-17-8 in Jay Heaps' first year as coach in 2012. Still, that was seen as an improvement after the club finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 5-16-13 record during the previous season.
"On day one last year we wanted to create a culture where we outwork, out-think and out-prepare (our opponents). That will lead us to outplay," Heaps told the team's official website. "That's our motto as a team."
The goal, however, is to return to the postseason.
"I don't think we're making any mistake about it; our goal this year is to make the playoffs," defender Chris Tierney said. "We definitely improved last year, but I still felt that there were a lot of points that we left out there on the table."
The Revs suffered 15 one-goal defeats last season, including a 2-1 loss to the Fire at Toyota Park on Aug. 18. They did win the other two meetings at home, but improvement on the road will likely be key this year.
New England went 2-13-2 as the visitor in 2012, and is 0-9-1 in Chicago since a victory at Soldier Field on July 8, 2006.
"They battle, they fight and they make it tough on us," goalkeeper Matt Reis said of the Fire.
Jerry Bengtson came up empty in his two matches with Chicago in 2012, and the star forward for the Honduran Olympic team is entering his first full season with the Revolution after scoring twice in 10 games last year.
He should soon have a new partner up top with Saer Sene, the Revs' leader with 11 goals last season who is recovering from a torn ACL and isn't expected back until next month.
Chad Barrett, who spent his first four MLS seasons with the Fire, may get the call after spending the last two seasons with Los Angeles and scoring eight goals in 48 games - 30 starts. Barrett has four goals in his past four meetings with his former club, scoring in two of three visits to Toyota Park.
The Fire are trying to rebound from the worst opening-day loss in franchise history. They fell 4-0 at Los Angeles on Sunday, equaling the team's most lopsided defeat and its worst since 2007.
"There's 34 weeks in the season, I'm not going to pick a champion just yet," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told the team's official website.
Opening the home schedule may be just what Chicago needs since it went 11-3-3 as the host last season.
"At home we're a different team than away," forward Sherjill MacDonald said. "I wouldn't say its going to be easy but it'll be easier than playing away. After last week's result, we need to give our fans a great performance.
"If we're at home, we always have to look at it as getting the three points."
It's unclear if MacDonald will be back on the bench after Maicon Santos started at forward against the Galaxy. He managed only one shot on goal, and MacDonald didn't get any after replacing him in the 67th minute.