MLS Cup is the pinnacle of the American soccer scene. Players commit their entire lives to winning the cup with only a select few proving to be successful. For many on the New England Revolution, Sunday will mark their first cup appearance. As a result, the advice from those who have been there before has proven vital in helping guide the team’s young core.
The Revolution last appeared in the MLS Cup in 2007, a game that featured current players Shalrie Joseph and Andy Dorman, as well as current head coach Jay Heaps. While Heaps has since retired and Joseph and Dorman haven’t seen many minutes during the Revolution’s playoff push—in fact Joseph hasn’t played at all this year—they’re still making important, daily contributions.
"Shalrie Joseph, he already won this [the Eastern Conference Championship] a few times," Jose Goncalves remarked. "He also helps some of the player on this team to have the right mentality and to come in this game."
Scott Caldwell is one player who has benefited from the instruction of Joseph, Dorman and Heaps. The University of Akron product has shown steady growth since joining the Revolution last season. In fact, MVP candidate Lee Nguyen recently stated that Caldwell has developed into the "anchor" of the midfield.
Caldwell’s progress can largely attributed to his ability to absorb the teachings of the experienced.
"Shalrie’s helping me every day," Caldwell explained. "He’s giving me little tips, pointers. It’s been awesome. Jay, as the coach, he’s been helping the team through everything."
Although younger than Joseph, Dorman and Heaps, Teal Bunbury has also been a source of insight. The 24-year-old was part of the Sporting KC team that won the MLS Cup last season. Despite not appearing in the final, Bunbury still has advice to offer.
"This doesn’t come around that often, and I want the guys to enjoy it," Bunbury said. "We have to go in and play well but we have to enjoy it."
Although the input of experienced players is certainly valuable, words will never fully prepare for a game where MLS’ greatest prize is on the line.
"I think the only way you can learn to be prepared for this game is to play this game and to win it," Goncalves noted.