A Cinderella run in the MLS playoffs made the 2020 season a success for the New England Revolution. But what comes next?
The Revs snuck into the postseason, going 1-3-1 in their final five games. The eighth-place Revs faced the ninth-place Impact in the play-in round. It was a closely-contested match that the home team won because of a last-minute goal from Gustavo Bou.
The team won three consecutive games before being thoroughly outplayed by the Columbus Crew. These three games, which made up the team’s longest win streak of the year, created a new sense of optimism among the fanbase.
These wins weren’t secured by luck, but rather a full team effort. Headlined by a cast of three Designated Players, everyone showed up on game days ready to play.
The wins earned the attention of mainstream media, with a common refrain being that the Revs were the area’s top team to watch.
A spirited run in the playoffs that piques the interest of locals is what we’ve all wanted for years. But what comes next?
Former US National Team head coach Bora Milutinović often asked his players what the most important play is in soccer. The answer is, the next play. That’s where we’re at now.
The last time the Revs were competitive in the postseason was 2014 when they advanced all the way to the MLS Cup Final. Here, Jay Heaps, Jermaine Jones, Lee Nguyen, and the Revolution were beat 2-1 by Bruce Arena, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and the LA Galaxy.
Much like now, the team received positive press leading up to game day. The team continued to earn coverage afterward. The most memorable of which came from The Improper Bostonian, who ran a cover story that labeled Jones as a game changer. The story within explained that the Revs’ run captured the “spotlight at home,” which should help the popularity of the sport.
And of course there was talk about a potential stadium.
The optimism that emerged in 2014 didn’t come to fruition. Instead, the team had a steady decline, which was headlined by a messy divorce with Jones. The team never added players of the same quality. Instead, they fired Heaps and replaced him with Brad Friedel, who wasn’t ready to be a club coach.
In summation, the club messed up the next play.
But now it’s time for another “next play.” The Revs need to have a winning season in 2021 in which they confidently roll into the playoffs. They need to keep their talented core intact while adding new pieces. They need to once again grab the local spotlight.
Soon after Arena’s hiring, I advised that Revs fans should look for “signs that the team is heading in the right direction.” Having three DPs is a sign, as is the training center and the establishment of a second team. This year’s playoff performance is another indicator.
Now we wait for the next sign.
I have confidence that it will come because Arena is at the helm. The MLS legend came here with the intention to win a championship and I hope it happens. In fact, I hope it keeps happening so this franchise is placed among the league elite.
Winning will make the team relevant in this market. It will lead to more fans showing up on game days wearing team-branded gear. It will force local media outlets to dedicate more than a few novelty minutes to the Revs. It might even lead to a downtown soccer-specific stadium.
These are all dreams, of course. But why shouldn’t we dream big?