The New England Revolution locker room felt a little different this week without the presence of longtime coach Jay Heaps. In fact, Saturday was the first time in nearly six years that Heaps wasn’t around to celebrate a Revs win and that was something that didn’t go unnoticed.
“There’s still a lot of emotion, like something missing when we go in the locker room to celebrate a win and Jay is not here,” interim head coach Tom Soehn explained.
Heaps had been with the organization for 17 years. After nine years as a player, he became the team’s color commentator. In 2011, he left the booth to take the head coaching job.
His tenure in charge was unbalanced as winning streaks were often followed by losing streaks. He led the team to an MLS Cup Final in 2014 and a U.S. Open Cup Final in 2016.
While the team has been solid at home this year, they haven’t collected a single road win. Their most recent attempts resulted in a 7-0 drubbing by Atlanta United and a 3-1 loss to Sporting KC. Soon after, Heaps was informed that his services were no longer needed.
The players took the news hard because many had a deep connection to Heaps.
“He’s done a lot for a lot of the guys in this locker room,” Chris Tierney explained. “He’s been a big part of this club, so it’s a difficult time for us.”
Although the change was difficult for many, the players know that they can only look forward. They’ve lost their head coach and will likely miss the playoffs for the second straight year. That said, there’s still plenty of reason to go out on the field and fight for three points.
“[The firing] came as a surprise, but we’re all professionals,” Lee Nguyen explained. “You see this stuff happening in this business so the guys—we had to come together and push through. Yeah, there’s a chance to make the playoffs, but we’re also playing for pride as well.”