When New England Revolution fans think of local talent on the team, visions of Scott Caldwell shielding the back line or Diego Fagundez running at outside backs understandably cross their minds. However, another, and probably even more crucial, member of the team calls Massachusetts home too: Chris Tierney.
Drafted in 2008 in the Supplemental Draft out of the University of Virginia, Tierney has called Gillette Stadium home for his entire career. An extremely versatile player with one of the best left foot's in Major League Soccer, the Wellesley native has been with the organization through thick and thin. He has stuck by the Revs during the darkest of years, but also been there to propel the team to glory.
As Jay Heaps' first choice left back in 2014, Tierney emerged as an under-appreciated defender who's offensive contributions and deceptively strong defense were paramount to the Revs success. Looking to build off last year, the experienced Tierney is primed to replicate his form in 2015.
2014: Since Tierney is a left back, let's take a look at how he manned the position in 2014. From a statistical perspective, Tierney was far from other-worldly, but there's a perfectly logical reason for this. Tierney, who is not a shut-down defender, often uses his brains and tactical wherewithal to be in a position where he doesn't have to make a game-saving challenge. By anticipating the play and being proactive rather than reactive, Tierney often puts himself in the right place at the right time.
In doing this, he won 41 tackles (58% of his attempted ones), made 35 interceptions, cleared the ball 96 times, and blocked a shot five times in 2014. Those are all respectable numbers, but are reflective of Tierney's career as a left-back. He gets the job done without speed or brute force, but is still dependable game in and game out. In a nutshell that's how the Revs' number eight has gone about his career, pragmatically and simply.
However, when one starts looking at Tierney's offensive presence and skill on the ball it becomes clear as to why he's been around the club for so long. Pegged by some as MLS' left-footed David Beckham, the 29-year-old is one of the most technically sound outsides backs in the entire league.
Given the license to roam forward and support his winger, Tierney can be routinely observed all the way near the opponent's penalty box rather than pinned to the halfway line. When up there, he combines through intelligent passes and quick combination play and in the process has ranked up a 79 percent passing accuracy. That is the third best for an outside back in the league and is only behind Seth Sinovic of Sporting Kansas City and Jordan Stewart of the San Jose Earthquakes. Also, below is Tierney's passing chart from the away 2-2 draw with the Montreal Impact. While not perfect, Tierney completed 87 percent of his passes on the day.
In addition to his passing accuracy, Tierney has a knack for finding the pass that unlocks the opposing defense. He created 37 chances and recorded seven assists in 2014, both of which are the best among MLS defenders. Also, the majority of Tierney's assists and created chances came from set pieces, from which he is as good as they come. His service into the box is immaculate and he can pick out any runner with ease.
With Tierney's defensive and passing abilities established, it is already apparent that he is a perfectly competent and suitable MLS fullback. However, Tierney's abilities do not end there. With his golden left foot again as the center piece, Tierney has the ability to threaten the goal with his blistering and whipping shot. He finished the 2014 MLS season with three goals and none were of the mundane variety.
He first tallied in the May 17th 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Union, as he sent a bending free kick beyond the outstretched hands of Zac Macmath. Despite numerous other attempts, Tierney would have to wait nearly five more months to find the back of the net once more. Faced with a tantalizing free kick opportunity, Tierney again stepped up in the Revs' 4-2 November 1st victory over the Columbus Crew and bent home an unstoppable shot past Steve Clark. Below is a quick clip of the Tierney golazo and, to put it lightly, Clark stood no chance.
In what marked his final goal of the 2014 season, Tierney tallied the Revs' equalizer in MLS Cup. Down 1-0 late to the LA Galaxy, Tierney made a lung-busting run up the left flank, dribbled one defender, and slotted past Jaime Penedo. It brought the Revs back into the match and symbolized everything that Tierney has been for the club: a willy, intelligent, and sound veteran who dependably gets the job done.
2015: Looking ahead to the 2015 season, it seems all but guaranteed that Tierney will play left-back again. While his versatility allowed him to make some appearances as an outside midfielder last year, his most effective position is along the back-line. From there the game is in front of him, he can support the attack, and use his deceptively strong one-on-one defending skills more effectively.
Additionally, Tierney's 2015 season will mark the 8th year he will don a Revs jersey and that experience is indispensable. Without his consistent presence, odds are the Revs wouldn't be enjoying the level of play they are right now. Plus, a long time servant like Tierney is due an MLS Cup or US Open Cup trophy. If his form stays this high, he could very well capture either in 2015.
All statistics in this article are from Squawka.com and all videos are from MLSsoccer.com.