By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Revolution return to the pitch next weekend, looking to build off a promising 2020 season. Head coach Bruce Arena is eager to get things going after some strong soccer throughout training camp and the preseason, and he hopes the team can begin the season with a bang.

That has not been the case in recent years, which has forced New England to play catch up late in the season.

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“Hopefully we start the season on a real positive note, which is something we haven’t done the last couple of years,” Arena told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche. “We want to start the first half of the season where we are in good shape and not fighting for our lives at the end trying to make the playoffs.”

The 2020 season was anything but normal, but the Revs found themselves in a tough spot come September. They responded by rattling off a 5-4-2 record over final six weeks, a push that earned New England a spot in the play-in round.

The Revolution advanced to the postseason with a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact before pulling off upset wins over the Philadelphia Union and Orlando City FC, outscoring the two favorites 5-1, to earn a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. They came up short of a trip to the MLS Cup against the Columbus Crew, and the season ended with a 1-0 defeat.

But that late-season run, and longest playoff run for the club since 2014, provided a strong foundation for the 2021 team to build upon. New England will return all 11 starters this season, so Arena doesn’t believe there will be a big learning curve as the season gets underway. He has a confident goalkeeper in Matt Turner, who has been stopping shots all preseason after an impressive 2020. Teal Bunbury led all scorers with eight goals during the pandemic-shortened season, while Gustavo Bou (5 goals in 18 matches) and Adam Buska (6 goals in 23 matches) are back to provide even more scoring punch.

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Mix in free agent additions Emmanuel Boateng and A.J. DeLaGarze (whom Arena drafted and won a trio of MLS Cups with in Los Angeles) for some added depth, and Arena believes the Revs are poised to have a special season in 2021.

“[Last season] gives us a lot of confidence and helped us bring in some other players as well. I think we’re a team that can challenge any team in the league,” he said. “Hopefully we can prove that as we start the season. We are a team with a lot of confidence and good leadership. … We’re just trying to build on what we did in 2020.”

And now they have a brand new TV partner in WBZ, with all matches set to air on WBZ-TV or TV-38.

“It’s fabulous to be with the local CBS affiliate. It’s tremendous and we know your coverage of sports is great,” Arena said of the new partnership. “We think we’re going to have a good team this year and hope we can bring a good product to our fans and your viewers.”

It all gets underway for New England on April 17 with a road match against the Chicago Fire, which will air on WBZ-TV. The Revs will kick things off at Gillette Stadium — in front of fans for the first time in over a year — when they host the D.C. United on April 24 on TV-38.

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CBSBoston.com Staff