I know you miss A.J. Soares. And that you’re puzzled about why Patrick Mullins was left unprotected during the Expansion Draft. I also get that you want a soccer specific stadium built in downtown Boston ASAP. For just a few minutes though, I want you to stop complaining and admit that 2014 was a revolutionary year for New England’s soccer team.
Puns aside, the New England Revolution showed growth in almost every area during the last 12 months. The product on the field improved, media presence was more rampant and, perhaps most importantly, the front office strengthened their relationship with the fans.
The improvement in playing style is the easiest to quantify. Since becoming head coach in 2011, Jay Heaps has shown steady progress. In his first year, he led the Revs to a 9-17-8 record. The following season, the team went 14-11-9 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. This year, Heaps’ men went 17-13-4 and advanced to the MLS Cup Final.
The positive results can largely be attributed to Heaps’ success in implementing an attacking brand of soccer. Whether the game is tied or unbalanced in some way, the Revolution have consistently shown a desire to score goals. While this mindset has sometimes led to lost points, it always creates plenty of excitement for fans.
The Revolution’s success becomes more impressive when you consider that it has been done with castaways. Lee Nguyen was picked up in a Waiver Draft after the Vancouver Whitecaps cut him. Teal Bunbury was viewed as excess by Sporting KC and was traded away for some allocation money and a first-round draft pick. Meanwhile, Charlie Davies was largely an afterthought until a move back home reignited his career. There have been obvious misses, but the player acquisitions made by Heaps and company have been superb since the front office reorganization of 2011.
The front office should also be recognized for their ability to build more media connections. Comcast SportsNet showed their support of the Revolution by airing a biweekly news program called State of the Revs. The station later supplemented their coverage by adding post-game shows after select games. CSNNE also welcomed Revolution players into the studio to help with their World Cup coverage.
The Revs found radio partner in WMEX 1510 and WMVX 1570. WMEX’s coverage was anchored by Tom Quinlan, who gave fans a voice through New England Soccer Weekly, the Post-Game Report and the Pitch Invaders Podcast. The team’s partnership with WMVX appealed to Brazilian fans as the station broadcasted every match in Portuguese beginning on October 4.
The Revolution also bolstered their relationship with the Foxboro faithful over the course of the year. During the World Cup, the team hosted popular watch parties at the House of Blues and City Hall Plaza. The club also provided food and refreshments to supporters that helped create the impressive tifo displays seen at the end of the season. The ultimate sign of goodwill came when the front office offered free bus transportation for up to 1,150 fans that wanted to go to Red Bull Arena for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final.
While the freebies were nice, Revolution fans were most happy to have their pleas for a bona fide Designated Player answered. On August 24th, it was announced that Jermaine Jones had been allocated to the Revs through a blind draw. Fans could hardly believe that one of the best American players at the 2014 World Cup was coming to play at Gillette Stadium. It turned out to be a landmark moment both on and off the field.
I have no problem with complaining. In fact, I think complaining is a necessary part of forcing progress. However, we need to take a minute and recognize that 2014 was a stellar year for the Revolution. It’s a year that ranks up there with the team’s first season or any of those from the Twellman era. It’s a year that helped fans understand why they stuck with the team despite the turbulent seasons that came along with Nicol’s final hours. It’s a year that deserves acknowledgement.
Ok. I’m done. You can now go back to complaining.