FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The occasion was not lost on the New England Revolution on Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium. Beat the Chicago Fire and you're playing for the chance at silverware, lose and your chances at a title in 2016 become that much slimmer.
Head coach Jay Heaps' side swayed towards the former.
The Revs made quick work of their Eastern Conference rival in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal round, securing a 3-1 victory before 9,801 fans. While New England won't learn its final opponent until Wednesday evening - it'll be either the L.A. Galaxy or FC Dallas - the opportunity before defender Je-Vaughn Watson was tough to resist.
"You know, I come here to win trophies, and wherever we're going, I'm going to go there to win because it's the first [time] I've been in a final and I want to win something for the club because it's a good club, good organization," Watson, who who scored the game-winning goal in the 42nd minute, said.
In a season that has been defined by mixed results, the Revs would earn an automatic berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League should they win the championship on Sept. 13. Despite that, Heaps and the locker room as a whole stressed the focus is on implementing Tuesday's night's performance into MLS play.
"I think the Open Cup is a great tournament, but you have to put it in perspective with the rest of the league," Heaps said. "You can't just set out to win that tournament alone. You got to make sure that we still use this as a good platform for the rest of the year for us."
All things considered, though, the Revs do have some history on their side, particularly in the form of their fifth-year head coach. Heaps played for the red, white and blue groups that won the 2007 Open Cup over Dallas and the 2008 North American SuperLiga against the Houston Dynamo.
There's further optimism with winger Teal Bunbury and striker Kei Kamara, both of whom started in Sporting Kansas City's 2012 Open Cup title win over the Seattle Sounders. For Bunbury, however, past successes don't influence the present much and the onus is on the Revs to seize the 103rd edition of America's longest ongoing national soccer competition.
"We don't really care what other teams put emphasis on the Open Cup," Bunbury, the source of New England's insurance tally in the 85th minute, said. "For us, it's a chance to win a championship, a chance to win a trophy, and that's what guys play for. It's to win championships for our team, for our organization, for our fans. For us, it's huge."
With about six weeks until the final, Heaps harped on the fact that his team's job is nowhere near done. For starters, the Revs will play seven league games before any trophy is raised, with four in front of their home crowd and five against conference opponents.
During that span, the Revs' season can head in any direction, and if all goes to plan this most recent victory will slowly procure brighter tomorrows.
"I'd love to do like we did in '07," Heaps said, referencing the 2007 Open Cup title. "We were sputtering a little bit in '07 and we made it to the Open Cup final and then we went on to the MLS Cup final and had a real chance to win that, up 1-0.
"So, I'd like to use this platform," Heaps added. "This is very similar. It gets us out of a little bit of a funk to get us back in and believing in each other the right way and working for each other the right way so that we can do a lot better than we have been the last couple weeks."