The New England Revolution-D.C. United rivalry is as old as MLS and no one knows that better than Jay Heaps and Ben Olsen.
Once bitter rivals as players on the field, Heaps and Olsen now roam the sidelines as head coaches. The two are as vocal as can be, hoping to gain an edge and guide their team to victory. Off the field, there’s nothing but respect between the league legends.
“I’ve been battling with Jay since I was 16 years old,” Olsen explained. “It’s always a lot of fun to go against him.”
The two first met in MLS league action on May 22, 1999 when Heaps’ Miami Fusion played Olsen’s United. Olsen won the night, as his team collected full points with a 3-1 result.
The two would continue to do battle in the years to come. Olsen remained with the Black and Red until he retired in 2009. Heaps would come to New England in 2001 via a trade that sent Brian Dunseth the other way. Heaps noticed right away that playing D.C. now had a new meaning.
“I played at RFK [Stadium] before with the Fusion but it was something a little different when it became Revs-D.C.,” Heaps noted.
The Revs gaffer has plenty of memories from the rivalry, his favorite coming in 2007 when the Revs beat D.C. at RFK before playing the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup Final a week later in the same stadium.
Though the victories will always be a favorite of Heaps, the former defender can’t help but remember the times when the results weren’t as favorable. After all, the Revs are 27-32-12 all-time against their storied rival. Statistics like this just make modern victories—such as Wednesday’s 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win—that much better.
“When push comes to shove, they’ve had our number,” Heaps said. “They’ve knocked us out of the playoffs. They’ve put us in some tough spots in the last couple of years, so tonight was a good game to come out [and win].”
Heaps and Olsen are now beyond their teenage years, but the two will continue to compete, hoping to score positive results in one of the league’s most storied rivalries. This includes yelling throughout a 90-minute game. Once the final whistle blows, however, the two will almost certainly embrace in a mutual sign of respect.
“I love Ben,” Heaps quipped. “I think he’s one of the class acts of all time in this league. He’s someone I love playing with, playing against, and certainly competing against. That’s high praise.
“Every time we see those guys I feel like it’s a wonderful game or a close game.”