Jerry Bengtson’s 62nd-minute header handed the New England Revolution (1-0-0, 3 points) a season-opening 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire (0-0-2, 0 points) on Saturday at Toyota Park. The Honduran International broke a scoreless draw when he glanced through a Kelyn Rowe cross at the left post.
The win gives the Revolution their first season-opening victory since 2009, when they beat San Jose 1-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium. The win also extended a modest three-game winning streak dating back to last October.
* What it means: The changes made during the offseason have reaped early rewards. European veteran Kalifa Cisse partnered with Clyde Simms in the central midfield and helped win the Revs a number of second balls and challenges. First-round pick Andrew Farrell played like a seasoned veteran while central defender Jose Goncalves was a rock in the rear and made a few timely recoveries. Additionally, the physicality head coach Jay Heaps wanted to see this season was evident from the start, and a number of tough tackles and challenges showed that the Revs weren’t going to be pushed around by an equally gritty Chicago side. Bengtson’s goal also signaled that his scoring touch -- which disappeared for stretches last season -- could be making a comeback.
* Stat of the game: New England committed 21 fouls, eight more than Chicago’s 13. Last season, a host of opponents pushed the Revs around to disrupt their game plan. But on Saturday, it was New England’s turn to dish out the punishment.
* A long time coming: The 1-0 win gave the Revolution their first victory in Chicago since July 8, 2006, when they beat the Fire 2-1.
* Shutout streak extended: New England, which hadn’t given up a goal in its final two games of 2012, extended its shutout streak from last season to 241 minutes.
* First pick makes MLS debut: Farrell, whom the Revolution traded up to select in January’s SuperDraft, got the start at right back. Farrell’s start marks the fifth straight season that the Revolution has featured its most-recent first round pick in the First Kick starting XI.
* What a difference a year makes: Starting center half Clyde Simms was the only member of the Revs midfield that started last year’s season opener. In fact, he was only one of four starters, including Kevin Alston, Reis and A.J. Soares, who also started in the 2012 season opener.
* Rookie gets nod on left: Second-round draft pick Donnie Smith earned the start on the left side of the midfield, with regular Lee Nguyen switching to the right. The 22-year-old rookie signed with the club two weeks ago after putting together an impressive preseason. He went 53 minutes in his MLS debut before coming off for Kelyn Rowe.
* Toja gets first Revs start: Juan Toja earned his first start in a Revolution uniform on Saturday, and went 79 minutes. The former FC Dallas midfielder was acquired via the allocation process last August, but injuries limited him down the stretch last season. The start also marked Toja’s first MLS start since July 19, 2008, when he played his final game for Dallas before embarking on a four-year European excursion.
* Next up: The Revolution remain on the road next weekend to face the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Saturday, March 16. The game kicks off at 5 p.m. and can be seen on Comcast Sportsnet New England.