Playing in an MLS Cup final—let alone winning the trophy—is special. No one knows that more than the New England Revolution.
The Revs have made five finals without walking away with the ultimate prize. That could change this year as the team enters the playoffs after breaking the single-season points record and lifting the Supporters’ Shield. There are plenty who are predicting that Bruce Arena’s men could hoist the cup.
But what about the last time the Revolution made it to the final?
The 2014 season was full of memories as Jose Goncalves worked through contract issues, Charlie Davies experienced a career renaissance, and Lee Nguyen emerged as an MVP candidate. Oh, and Jermaine Jones arrived fresh off a World Cup appearance. The man on the sidelines, Jay Heaps, took the reins in 2012, leaving his job at Morgan Stanley to be a rookie coach for the club he once played for.
The Revs made it to the MLS Cup final, ultimately losing 2-1 to Arena’s L.A. Galaxy after conceding deep into 30 minutes of overtime. Their fifth trip to the final ended the same as the others.
The story you’re about to read details that season, but you’re not going to see a lot of score lines or tactical analysis. Instead, this is the story of the 2014 New England Revolution as told by the people who were there.
High Expectations Meets Early Struggles
Jay Heaps (Revolution coach 2011-2017): Expectations were actually high and it was because of what we felt like was the arc. 2012 was really feeling out what a core could be. ‘13, we felt like we added really good pieces and made a good playoff run. Going into ‘14 there were high expectations.
A.J. Soares (Revolution player 2011-2014): Jay needed guys who believed in what he was doing. A guy like Benny [Feilhaber], he had more success, he can lead in certain directions because he’s such a big, successful player. That’s not the kind of player that Jay needed. He needed guys who were just willing to do whatever he wanted them to do. And I think he did a phenomenal job at creating the roster that worked for him.
Lee Nguyen (Revolution player 2012-2018, 2020): We kept the good core group of people from the previous season and knew that there was a lot of upside in this team. Going into the next season, I think we really were missing like one or two pieces to solidify the team to really make it a serious run.
Heaps: We acquired Teal during preseason. That was another [snaps fingers] that you felt. We were missing the speed and pace that he brought in. He was great from the beginning.
Teal Bunbury (Revolution player 2014-present): It was my first time being on a new team. I had been with KC for four years so I didn’t really know what to expect. It was a pretty easy transition. All the guys were great and the fans were awesome when I first got here.
Chris Tierney (Revolution player 2008-2018): You have to remember that in 2014 we weren’t doing particularly well for the first half of the year. I think the Jermaine Jones signing was really the turning point. Jay had built a core of the team that just needed 1-2 key pieces to come in and compliment the guys we had in place. Jermaine was that piece.
Heaps: We had a really good preseason. I remember it coming together. The only headache early on was sorting out Jose [Goncalves’] contract situations. The first game of the year was at Houston and it did not go well because Jose was dealing with what he thought would be a pay raise. There were a few things that happened in that contract coming out of that year that he was upset about. He was just frustrated...His heart wasn’t into it. When you watch Jose, [you can tell] he needs his mind, soul, and everything to be in it.
Soares: [Goncalves] changed the team dramatically when he came [in 2013]. I would say he was the biggest influence on the team of all of the big name people that were there. I mean, Lee carried the team with the numbers of course with all the goals, but when [Goncalves] came in he finally made us—and certainly us in the back—feel like we can be super up top and we can put on a defensive masterclass and win the game.
Jose Goncalves (Revolution player 2013-2016): It was all about the contract, that’s for sure, but after it wasn’t just about the contract. After, it was the way things were going, the way discussions were going, and the way I felt. I was not happy there anymore, something had changed. I lost the faith I had in the people, Jay and the people in the front office. As soon as I lost it, it was the start of the end and it was a matter of time. Of course it was all about the contract and it wasn’t a crazy amount. I won’t tell you the numbers, but it wasn’t crazy.
Tierney: He’s not the first player who had problems with management, especially during that time. It wasn’t something we discussed in the locker room. I had private conversations with Jose. He was always respectful to the squad by separating whatever his contract issues were with what we were doing as a team.
Heaps: It took us and the players supporting him to get through that. Once he moved past it and realized that was something that this group couldn’t control because it had to be dealt with elsewhere, his mindset was there and it was awesome. It was hard for him to get his mind back in but once he did you could feel the group come back together.
Goncalves: At some point, I felt like I was being unfair to my teammates. You see all of your teammates and they are running. We all have the same vision and I’m part of this. I can’t let these guys down. They do the same for me on the field and I have to give it back. It was more for them. I had a lot of fun with the guys on the field. This is what kept me going. That’s what kept me motivated. I always tried to find a way to keep my motivation. I even put all of those guys to the side. Jay and the front office, I put them on the side. I would see them during the week, during training, on the weekend and I would say hi and that’s it. Nothing more. The guys that would keep me going were on the field.
Heaps: I remember when Lee Nguyen scored the goal at San Jose and we won the game in the last second. That, for me, was when we were kind of starting to put it together. Lee was starting to play so much better. Jose was starting to come along. He had been so good the year before but it took him a little while. Once he and A.J. were back in their positions at center back, I felt like we had every chance at doing well.
Soares: I think the big difference was all the sudden we felt really confident with Lee that we could win any game, because he could score at any time. We were dominating possession in a lot of games. I’m not a possession believer in soccer. I think it’s a very overrated stat because there are lots of instances and lots of tournaments where the team with less possession wins more frequently. But it is an indicator of how well you’re doing in the game.
Heaps: [The games against Seattle and Philadelphia] were our litmus tests. Seattle is always good and Philly was on their way. Those were good. It showed different ways that we could score. It could be from Diego [Fagundez]. It could be from Patrick Mullins. It could be from Lee Nguyen.
Soares: It’s kind of like, you know that if we just do okay defensively we can win every single game. I didn’t have that belief for two and a half to three years at the Revs. It was like, if we’re lucky we’ll win. If we play phenomenally we could tie, and if we play normal we will lose. That’s probably how it was for certainly the first two years. You didn’t think you could win any games. Things had to go so perfectly. That changed. It was like, we can play our average game and we’re probably going to win. I don’t point to a specific game but obviously when you beat the Sounders 5-0 and we absolutely dominated then you felt like, “Wow, we’re actually better than some teams.”
Bunbury: That year was just a special year. It was weird. It started off a little rocky [then] it got a little better then it got a whole lot worse and then we picked it up and made a pretty fun run at the end.
Getting out of the Summer Slump
Heaps: The summers would come and you’re trying to avoid [the slump]. Usually you’d have a really good April and May then the Open Cup would come. We weren’t the deepest team and you start to blend lineups more and get through it.
Soares: MLS is really brutal in the summer because it’s so hot. It’s hard to play the games. I played in Europe where you can play every two days and it’s totally different because you’re driving 40 minutes to a game and you know it’s 45 degrees out so it’s cold and feels good. MLS is like an absolute slog in the summer and if you’re having a bad period, it can add up quickly.
Heaps: It’s frustrating for the inconsistency in points but you can tell it wasn’t from lack of effort or energy. Everyone was giving all they had but it was always a bad result or bad goal or something that seemed to pile on. The negative fuel was there in that it could go wrong but no one ever said, “I give up, this is too impossible.” It was always, “Well the next one will go our way. The next one will go our way.” And when it did, we were in a position to take advantage of that.
Soares: I just remember being in New York, after having lost another game and I was getting on the bus with Jay and just chatting with him, trying to figure out what to do. I think he did a good job. He didn’t hammer us, which might have been what he would have done the year before. He still gave us days off. He still did the training in a good mood. A lot of young coaches, they’ll be like, “Okay we’re coming in for training one more day.” That’s not what we need. So he did a phenomenal job kind of managing us there and then somehow we got out of it. I have no clue [how we got out of the slump] to tell you the truth, but we had a lot of really great guys where we didn’t let it get us down, you know.
Nguyen: We had a great locker room. Credit to Jay for knowing how to build and put the pieces together. Not just on the field, but [also] making sure that there was good chemistry in the locker room. Honestly of all the teams I’ve been with, the locker room matters most because when you go through bad times it’s the tight knit locker rooms that get you through.
Heaps: New England wasn’t always a destination that everyone wanted to go to, but once you were there you felt like you had to protect it and really buy in from being there. Guys like Chris Tierney, Scott Caldwell, Charlie [Davies], we were all from the area so we bought into it more than most. When I was a player, you had guys like Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston who weren’t really from there. But we were like, this is Massachusetts. It’s rainy here at times, it snows, and we’re playing on turf. We just have to take all of these negatives and make them a strength. And we did that. I think that was one thing that always impressed players when they came in or when they left, was the strength of the locker room. I know we had that in ‘13 and in ‘14 it came together even stronger because we added the personalities that could take us to that next level on the field.
Nguyen: We were doing trending videos where you listen to music like you’re not really doing anything and then when the beat hits all of a sudden the whole locker starts going crazy. That just builds so much chemistry. And setting up a ping pong tournament during the season, just to kind of get our minds off of other things, but you know we still had the competitive edge because everybody wanted to win.
Goncalves: Charlie Davies was a guy that was in the team that was always happy. He was always making a joke. He was always making sure that people had fun. He was the biggest part of the center of the team. You can’t imagine how important it is to have a guy like him on the team. It was unbelievable. He was unbelievable. Everybody got along really well with Charlie. He was having fun. He was relaxing the team before the games with his jokes, with his music. He was a big part of what the club achieved.
Soares: Davies would freestyle. His rapping is so bad. I can’t even. If you were to just freestyle right now, it would be better than any of his freestyles. He was great. He’d get us to come out and go to dinner together. He did all that kind of stuff. He was really great with the young players. He was great and got the whole team integrated.
Nguyen: [Davies] was always giving the rookies a hard time with their fashion coming out of college. You know, just just heckling them. After a while they’re like, “I don’t want to hear this anymore so I’m going to come correct.”
Heaps: [Davies] just hadn’t shown us a ton [when he was on loan in 2013]. I don’t think he was in the place mentally and physically to show us a ton in 2013. We started to see glimpses of it in 2014 but also Patrick Mullins was scoring some goals and Teal was scoring some goals, so he wasn’t breaking in. But when we hit our skid, that was when we needed to find a personality that could get us out of some tough situations. It was a game in Dallas. We didn’t win the game but it was a skid. We gave [Davies] a start and people wanted him to do well. That was the first time I’d really seen that stand out. That was where we started to put people around Charlie.
Soares: This is going to sound crazy and I’m saying this based on his MLS career, but Davies is one of the most underrated players I’ve played with. He’s an unbelievable striker. He is a real football player. If you go back and watch those games, he’s scored a lot of goals, but he also did an enormous amount of work for the team defensively. He knows when to run forward and when to stay in the shape...He was a much, much bigger part of us getting to the final and potentially winning the cup than anyone will ever give him credit for. He was probably the reason we were so good. He was one of the best players that I’ve played with.
Heaps: [Davies] made our shape better almost instantly before he started scoring goals. So the goals were almost second to “Wow, we have a really good shape. We’re not leaking as many goals and we’re being good with our pressure.”
Soares: [The summer slump] didn’t really matter in the end. As you can see, MLS is very phase two, season two. The massage therapist Glenn O’Connor always says, “You know, in MLS you have to win like the last five games of the year. That’s pretty much it and then you’re in the playoffs.” And that’s how it always turns out, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Adding Jermaine Jones
Heaps: We started the conversation [with Jones], we were pushing hard for it when we were playing in June, maybe late May. We got word that Jermaine was interested in coming back to the United States. His U.S. representation reached out to us really early. We didn’t know what the number was, but we were definitely the first team he talked to about coming back. We knew that he would talk to other teams but we ran it up the flagpole internally and it really got stopped before I think it got to the Krafts’ desk. No one knew what the money was going to be. Was it going to be a $3 million contact? A $1 million contract? No one knew...When Chicago got involved, we got a better understanding of where the numbers were because they started to flush it out more. We were like, “Hey, we could get there.”
[Assistant coach] Tommy Soehn will tell you that he had a conversation about it with Jacob Kraft [son of Revolution investor-operator Jonathan Kraft] right as the World Cup was ending. There was a little more talk in Chicago but we mentioned that Jermaine Jones did reach out to us. He did say that he wanted to come to Boston early in that process because it’s a big city. It was brought up to Jacob and Jacob was like, “Wait a minute, he wants to come here?” Next thing you know, it got run up the flagpole and we got back to the table again. Then it became, “Hey, well we were the first to the table. We were talking first.” Chicago pushed a little further along. So in the end they did it however the league does it. It was a long night but we were really hoping to get him. So that was good.
Soares: Jacob, he was around. He was the kitman. Basically he was working with Scott Emmens. He was there washing the stuff but he was part of the team. You feel great about that, you really do. I remember it was Thanksgiving Day and Bob [Kraft] came to training. I’m thinking, this guy’s a billionaire and he’s at our training session. We’re doing some stupid thing with Jay, like corner kicks or something. I don’t know. I just remember feeling like, “Wow the Krafts, they’re great. They really, really care about us.” Jacob being involved was an add-on to that. It really made you feel like that ownership group cared about the team a lot.
Heaps: I think Jacob being so enthused about it definitely got us even more jazzed about it. At the time, Jermaine just scored against Portugal. He was the hottest player from the U.S. We were like, “This is exactly what we need to get us going.” We had Scotty Caldwell, who was one of the smartest players in the league who could play as a cover man for Jermaine if he started going all over the place. We had Lee Nguyen, who was the attacking piece of this. We knew that this one piece was what we needed but we had never typically spent a lot on that. If Jacob was in—we all have kids—if your kids like someone it helps.
Jermaine Jones (Revolution player 2014-2015): New England was never in the picture the whole time. It was the Chicago Fire the whole time that was in the picture. New England got back and the league said they’d have to be a blind draw or something because there was some stuff between the league and the New England Revolution. So they made a blind draw of it.
Brian Bilello [chief operating officer 2006-2011, club president 2011-present]: [The blind draw] was a video conference call. I was actually the one from our team on the call. I witnessed the name being pulled. It was a pretty exciting day for us. It came together so quickly that I was at home. I remember I had a barbeque for this Oktoberfest party that we always used to have, my wife and I. Most of my over-40s soccer team and all my friends were over. I had to disappear for like five hours from the party because we had the draw. Once we had the draw, it was figuring out how to make the announcement.
Heaps: I remember going to my sister’s and I wasn’t expecting to find out. I didn’t know when the draw was. I got a call from Brian and he was like, “Hey, we got him.” I just remember going right to the office. I started breaking down film. I started getting ready.
Soares: I was just shocked that the Revs landed Jones. I thought the league’s gonna put him somewhere else, like he’ll go to L.A. or something. Then he ended up in New England, which was shocking.
Jones: I just wanted to see what comes. I knew that Boston is a big city, but Foxboro is a little bit outside, the stadium is more isolated, and it’s a turf field. The team was not like a top team. I was like, you know what, I’m just going there because I want to meet the team, I want to meet the owners to see how impactful I can be to help this franchise, to build something and change something in the view of how other people are looking at them.
Brad Knighton [Revolution player 2007-2009, 2014-present]: Jermaine came in and he had such a good World Cup coming in and [we knew] this was going to be a franchise player and from day one when he came in he set the tone. We had more publicity, more people around, we got breakfast.
Jones: In the beginning, there was really no breakfast. They had some snacks and sometimes some bagels. In the beginning, I came and said that had to be changed. I asked the guys what they wanted for breakfast then I went to the team manager and asked if they could order all of this for breakfast and I will pay for it out of my pocket. We did that for a little bit then the club came back and said they would take over and they would give us breakfast in the morning.
Tierney: Just because of the playing career that he had, [Jones] demanded a lot of not only the players around him, but the club. He really pushed Jay in making things better. I think at that point in the club’s history, we weren’t really spending as much on the peripheral things that you don’t really think about like traveling, training facilities, meals. All of those things were elevated when Jermaine came in. He pushed the club to really do better in all of those departments. Credit to him and the club really stepped up.
Jones: We all know that the Krafts and the whole area of Foxboro was actually more of an American football based community. That was the focus. They did well and they won championships over the years. When I came to the New England Revolution, I had conversations with them and gave them the idea that they could build something really big and successful like the football team. But we needed support and we needed help with small stuff like breakfast to raise the level. They were always open. Jay Heaps was always open. He always had an ear to listen to stuff and then Jonathan Kraft was mostly the partner we had a chance to talk to.
Soares: I just remember [Jones] walking in the locker the next day and he’s dressed in like some cool stuff and he’s got tattoos everywhere. It was similar to Sharlie Joseph in the sense of his personality, where everyone’s completely attracted to the person because they have so much charisma and that just gives you confidence. You want to impress the new guy who’s so cool and so successful, and I think that is what helped the group in a different way.
Heaps: What I noticed right away was that the energy in the group went straight up. It was as if everyone wanted to show that they were good enough to be on the field with Jermaine. It was the first time that we had really brought in a player with his resume.
Tierney: From a locker room stand point, he just wouldn’t let guys off the hook in terms of the level that they trained at. I think that was really the key difference. Every training session was a war for him. There were no recovery days for him. There was no “it’s the day before the game, so let’s take it easy.” He was 110% always.
Jones: When I came on day one, I said to them, “I hate to lose games.” I can be—I’m sorry for saying it—I can be an [expletive ], but the moment we step away from the field you can call me at 2 o’clock in the morning and I’ll be there for you or your family. It doesn’t matter what comes. But on the field, if I feel like you’re doing something wrong then I’ll go against you. But you have the same right. If you feel like I’m doing something wrong, you can tell me the same way. I’m not shying away from that. Sometimes we will go against each other, that’s what it is. At least when we go on the field and we look each other in the eyes and say we’re doing this because we want to win.
Goncalves: We needed something in the central midfield to take a little bit of the lead and command there, also with winning challenges. He had a lot of experiences. He’s smart with the ball and off the ball. We had good players in the club but a lot of young kids who didn’t have that ability or experience. With him, we could make the next step and maybe challenge for the cup. It was the right fit to bring him in. He was also motivated.
Soares: He’s so talented. He’s just so good. Like he has more talent, more physical capacity than everyone out there, so he could crank it up. I remember being in Montreal, where I thought, “God, get this guy out of here! He’s like playing left winger. I don’t know what he’s doing.” But he was so talented he could do that. He could just turn it on and we could just beat the other team.
Heaps: We allowed Jermaine to be Jermaine. Jermaine is one of the most competitive people I know. He wants to win but he’s also very tactical. Because he wants to win so much, he understands the tactics, but in a game he’ll release out and make the play that he knows that only he can make. But if it turns over and doesn’t happen, you need someone who can read that. Scotty just saw the game. He played perfectly off of Jermaine.
Jones: Scott was a really quiet guy. He was really humble. He hangs out with Farrell the whole time and they’re joking around in the locker room. He’s a really humble guy but then on the field he was doing the dirty work for everyone. He was the least appreciated player on the field because no one talks about this guy. He did it for me. He did it for Nguyen. He did it for most of the team. He did all the dirty work.
Nguyen: I was excited because at that moment we wanted to challenge the top teams. I think we were missing that one piece in the midfield where someone could help us control the game while building out of the back, so we could control the game a little bit more. I could also stay up higher to try to find the space. I think we just had good chemistry with the guys up top, with me and Charlie. I think we were clicking at the right time and then Jermaine came in and it was only upbeat from there.
Soares: [Jermaine] wasn’t the best player in most of the games. He was a really great, important player that made a huge shift, but he was part of the puzzle. It ended up working out really well.
Heaps: Nguyen showed a lot in 2012, 2013, but 2014 was when it all came together. It was pretty amazing to see. I still think he should’ve won MVP that year just based on how important he was to our team. Who is the most valuable player for their team? He did everything. He was defensive. He was creative. He did everything we asked of him and I think he should’ve won that award.
Nguyen: When I first came to the Revs, I was playing more as an outside midfield winger. That season, the plan was to play the number 10, which is my preferred position. It was just building the pieces around me, to find players who helped me find good pockets, but also help give me support when I am in those spaces.
Jones: I always said, when I played with Lee, I raised the level of the players in the New England Revolution when they played with me because I held them accountable for stuff. I was on their mind, on their a** and being like, “Guys, you have to step it up. You have to step it up. Stop doing this. Stop doing this. If you keep doing this, I will go to Jay Heaps and I will kick you out.” I put people on the line...I didn’t want it to fail in New England. For that, it wasn’t just me. I needed a team. I appreciate all of those guys. They’re like brothers. We went through all of this stuff together. Alone I wouldn’t be able to do it. All of them have a big part in this whole run.
Andrew Farrell (Revolution player 2013-present): [Jones] galvanized the guys and made training even sharper. Everything was just more competitive. He brought the level up in training and that carried us through the last eleven games and then we made that run into the playoffs.
Soares: The Crew game was interesting because at that time Gregg Berhalter had them playing this really extreme version of football, which was like spread out, pass the ball at all costs. It was absurd, to be honest. Like the football style was crazy, but they were getting results...I don’t know why no one did this before because in hindsight it looks like a good idea, but a few days before the game Jay’s like, “Okay we’re gonna high press them one on one.” We’re going to man mark, which is crazy. We’re going to go all the way up the field, which means that the center backs have to man mark the strikers. It’s very dangerous.
Heaps: The best thing that happened [before the Crew game] was when Tony Tchani came out and said, “We don’t have to worry about Jermaine Jones”—because they were asking a lot of questions about Jermaine Jones—“We got to worry about Lee Nguyen.” I remember saying, “Tommy [Soehn], do we need to call and thank Tony Tchani.”
Jones: Somebody like Tony Tchani—I know him, we’re good now—but at the time, to be honest, I didn’t know who he was. I never heard of him before and now he’s talking about me. But that’s the game, he tried to get on my nerves. To me, it showed me that he’s actually scared about me.
Heaps: I will say that we did distribute it in the locker room. I don’t normally do that but we did make sure that it was readily available in case Jermaine didn’t see it online.
Soares: Jay put the quote out and and some of us—I’d say me and Chris Tierney—we probably thought this is so stupid. But I think for someone like Jermaine, I think it probably worked, I really do.
Nguyen: It was great for us that he made that comment because there’s nothing better than lighting a fire under Jermaine before a game. It definitely took Jermaine’s game to another level. He took it personally in terms of the one on one matchup between him and Tchani.
Heaps: When we arrived in Columbus, [Jones] was the first one out in the locker room to go out to the warmups. I remember going to Tommy and saying, “This is going to be unbelievable.” He said, “Jay, I’ve never seen anyone so locked in.” There was no way we were going to lose that game. There was zero chance. I would’ve bet anything in my life that we were going to win that game, not by one goal. We were going to destroy this team. We were going to bury this team.
Soares: We pressed up the field, and it wasn’t even close. We just crushed them. It just worked perfectly and I was like, Jay’s got some tactics. I never thought he was tactically good prior to that. I thought he was a motivator that put the good players on the field. When I looked back, he actually tactically did a really good job the whole season, which is something that no one would ever give Jay credit for.
Heaps: Michael [Parkhurst] has always been a good friend of mine, and I remember walking off that field and he came over. He was like, “Hey man, you guys got to go win this thing. Be the ones that beat New York.” If we lost, we wanted them to beat New York. The Red Bulls were kind of the big, bad bullies in the East at the time. If either one of us won, we were going to root on the other group.
Jones: In the end, [Tchani] was right. Not only [about] Nguyen, but we had a whole team and we showed up. It wasn’t just me. It was the whole team and we showed up. We beat them and in the end that’s the consequence if you always open your mouth before the game. Instead, you wait until after the game to talk.
Soares: Jay showed up at the plane with a bunch of bottles of champagne and we were just a group of people who wanted to drink champagne after the game. We weren’t too serious, which was probably why we did so well. In your big European clubs, you have to be super professional, of course. But in MLS you need a group of guys who are happy, who are working well together, and that means when you win on the road there is champagne on the airplane.
Jones: I remember after Columbus, we had to go to New York. We knew that New York, especially in the attacking phase, was really good. We knew we had to play them anyways and we see now something is growing. There’s something getting better. We have to trust each other. We have to believe. We have the quality.
Bilello: There always were in the order of a couple hundred supporters who would go to the New York games. So it was like, “Oh, let’s get you three to four busses and you can go down to the game.” Within hours there was no more room on the busses. I remember publicly announcing, probably on Twitter, we’ll get as many busses as we need to get fans down there for that game. It just exploded. We wound up filling that whole away section for that game. I remember just being there for that match pregame and looking up. They brought out the away section first. The stadium was 90% empty at that point, except the away section was filled. So our fans were going nuts and screaming. Even the Red Bulls players were coming out and looking up and thinking, “Huh, that’s not great that they have 1,200 screaming fans at our game.”
Jones: We were all excited after winning this. When we were in the locker room, we celebrated and we were happy, but we knew that this game was not finished and that we were going to have to have a real battle against New York in New England because this team has the quality, especially going forward, to really hurt you.
Heaps: From the beginning, we assumed that [Thierry] Henry was going to play [at Gillette Stadium]. We were telling our guys, “He’s going to play, it’s going to be his first time, but he doesn’t like it. So if you get a chance, tell him how bad it is.” Make sure you make a comment like, “Man, this turf is terrible, isn’t it?” Make sure you get him thinking about how bad it is.
Jones: To be honest, we knew [Henry] was special. But still, we knew that he doesn’t like to play on turf. Playing on this turf every week or every second week with this team, we knew that people need at least 20 minutes to adjust to this turf, to figure out how this ball drops and how the movements are on the ball. People are scared to come. This is why he never played on turf because he was like, “I don’t want to get injured.” That’s the truth. We knew that when he came we had to be hard on him straight from the beginning, try to get on his nerves.
Nguyen: [Henry] was always the type of player that would like to have little conversations during the game, you know, so you’re going to chat a little bit. But for the most part, it was all fun and stuff. You make a little joke like, “It’s nice to see you playing on the turf.”
Jones: In general, I’ve always been the person who talks on the field, to be honest. I remember saying to him, “You made it. You came out here. It’s not New York. It’s freezing. How do you like it? It’s not your thing. It’s windy.” He just laughed.
Heaps: That was always my MO. They think it’s bad, let’s let them know it’s worse. That was always the fun part of it. Being from New England, you want to embrace the suck. Sometimes you have to do that.
Farrell: [Henry] was one of my favorite players, if not my favorite player. He did so much for football coming into the states. He did so much for the Red Bulls, on and off the field. Even in his later years, he was an incredible player who could change the game at any moment, which is hard to play against. He could be isolated out wide and not really involved in the play but then he could suddenly score on you. That Red Bulls team was really good. They were a [Tim] Cahill miss away from not having us go to the MLS Cup that year. Great team. The battles with Henry, I learned a lot, mostly after the fact by getting beaten in behind. Those were good battles against him.
Heaps: What was amazing to me was that [Henry] made an effort to come over and grab me to wish us luck. He made a point to come over and say, “Hey, congratulations you guys, well deserved. Go win this thing.” I remember that...It was a special moment I’ll remember because I thought it was such a class move.
Goncalves: Everyone in MLS knew that it would be his last game if he lost again. My little brother is a big fan of Thierry Henry. He has his jersey from the time I played against him in the 2005 Champions League with FC Thun. I took a jersey from Thierry Henry and he still has it at home. He was a big fan, my little brother. I’m also a fan. He’s a big icon in football. [Henry] was right next to me maybe two minutes before the end [of the game]. I asked him about the jersey and he said, “No problem. For sure I will give it to you.” I saw so many players who tried to run to get his jersey. I felt happy and I felt smart that I asked him two minutes before. I said, “Guys, you need to be faster” as I joke...I told Charlie Davies, for $50,000 I will send it right away. I will go to the post office tomorrow and send it to him. It’s up to him.
Heaps: I still think one of my proudest moments was the second round of the playoffs when we beat New York to go to the MLS Cup and did it at home. That crowd was one of the most special I’d seen. I had been in that game before as a player and it didn’t nearly have as much support behind it. Those teams were really good and fun to be around and should’ve enjoyed as many fans but I think there was something contagious about that 2014 team.
Tierney: We went to a bar on Newbury Street after the Eastern Conference Final and had a party that night that was legendary. It was Cafeteria on Newbury Street. We had all the wives, girlfriends, and family there and we were drinking out of the Eastern Conference trophy...Charlie had his hands all over that thing. He never let anyone have a second with it.
Goncalves: For me, I forgot everything and I put everything to the side [from earlier in the season]. There was no space anymore when you go to the top for negativity. I have to be focused. I have to be 100% here for my teammates, for the team. I want to win the trophy. It’s that simple. I will invest everything I have to achieve this goal. To win [the Eastern Conference Championship] was one step. We needed to take a second step, which would be even more difficult when we flew to L.A.
Heaps: The hardest part that hurt us the most was the flight out there because it was such a long flight. It actually wasn’t a direct charter and it landed, I believe, twice before we got there.
Farrell: We took this small charter plane. The league has moved on and we have bigger charter planes so we can make it across to L.A. with no stops. We stopped in some random places. We had a boxed meal ready for us there. It was very interesting.
Jones: It felt like we had a round trip around the world.
Tierney: The travel wasn’t ideal. They were doing their best. They tried to fly us out there on a charter. For whatever reason, we had to refuel once or twice. I don’t know, it’s an excuse. It was an eight hour trip when it should’ve been a four or five hour trip, maybe. In the whole scheme of things, it’s a few extra hours. It’s not that big of a deal.
Soares: The training sessions [when we got there] were so bad, like everyone felt horrible and looked terrible. I was like, well we better shape it up. We’re in the Cup here.
Farrell: We weren’t sharp. It was warmer than we were used to. Who knows [if that affected us]? We didn’t practice like we should have, being totally 100% focused on things. The last couple of things we did were a little bit sharper in getting things going but the first couple of trainings were a little rough.
Goncalves: There is one thing I regret from this preparation for the MLS Cup. If there’s one thing that I could go back and change, it’s that we ask that we protect the team a little bit more. It’s normal but we had so many interviews and players traveling there before the game and meeting with sponsors. I realized this after the game that we were losing a little bit the focus we had.
Heaps: We were, by far, I thought the underdog at the time if you looked at the payroll. They had Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. They were just a different team, built a little differently than us. But man, we went toe to toe with them.
Bilello: That 2014 Galaxy team is really underrated in terms of MLS history, in terms of how good they were, what their goal differential was. That was a really, really good team that we went up against. Going into it, I think both teams could’ve had it. Both teams were playing at a high level.
Heaps: With the final in L.A., it was always going to be tough, but going down a goal made it hard. Then Patrick Mullins created a goal to get back in it.
Tierney: It was at a point when we had to start taking risks. We were one-nil down...I just figured it was a good time to roll the dice and get myself into a position where if [Mullins] got on the end of it he could find me. He did and he cut back a good ball to me. I took a good touch with my right foot and thought, “If you’re going to do anything here, you’re going to hit the target. You’re not going to miss the goal.” I put a C+ shot on net that the goalkeeper should’ve saved but it went in.
Jones: People were cramping because it was so heated and it was hot. They were able to push. When we scored to equalize the game, we were already running out of gas. We were done. We were finished. We were trying to figure out how to maybe get to a penalty shootout or something.
Heaps: I remember it was a really hot day, so we lost some players to cramps. They were cramping and we’re in overtime and things just didn’t happen. Going forward, we started to put into place things to help. On cross country flights, you get fluids in your system. We talked about getting IVs.
Nguyen: I knew that I was going to get one more good look at least, and that we could have won it. We were right there. We had every chance to win that game. I think we held L.A. for the most part pretty good. It just sucked [that I cramped] but that happens. The harder I tried to stay on and go the more I cramped. It just came to a point where I was like, “Man I’m not gonna be of any help.”
Tierney: Some of our key guys did end up cramping in the game, which was disappointing. What are you going to do? These things happen.
Nguyen: It was one of the toughest 20-30 minutes at the end there, knowing that there was nothing that I could do, knowing that it could have been a different game.
Heaps: We were, I thought, the better team for some of that game. The hardest part was at one point we went from hitting a crossbar to them going down and getting the game-winning goal on a play I think we can make nine out of 10 times.
Tierney: I personally made a mistake in overtime that I think cost us when I was tracking a run from [Baggio] Husidic, who came on in the second half. I should’ve held the line because I remember Juninho having the ball. The rest of the line held and I didn’t. It cost us a goal in overtime that cost us the game. My first thought was disappointment. Big picture, it was a great run for us. It was great that we were in the game until the end against a team that was honestly a better team than we were.
Soares: I was up in the box trying to score, and the ball squirmed out to the end line. [Goalkeeper] Jaime Penedo was going out to collect it and I was sprinting because it was at all costs at this point. I’m just trying to jump in there because maybe he’ll bobble the ball or something. When I jumped to slide I got a huge cramp in my calf because this was at the end of overtime, I believe. So I was feeling that. I popped up and their goalkeeper Penedo stayed down on the ground and was rolling around. Nothing happened. We hit each other, but it wasn’t anything bad. Of course, at the time I’m not having it. So I pick him up, but then he doesn’t want to put his foot down. He’s pretending like he’s still hurt, so I just pushed him over. I wasn’t trying to be funny or mean but I’m not going to hold you while you’re faking it [and] everyone knows you’re faking it.
GIF: Revs player helps up injured goalte- oh, wait…never mind. pic.twitter.com/Juql3sw0RT— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 7, 2014
Heaps: Well, it was awesome because [Penedo] was known to do that and we’ve seen a lot of clips on it. I guarantee that L.A. didn’t like him doing it. He just kind of did it on his own. He would stall games. We never did that.
Soares: The ref knows [Penedo’s] faking it and, to be fair, Mark Geiger kind of came over to me. I was just like, “Come on, Mark.” And he was like, “Yeah.” He was cool. He totally got it. He should have given me a yellow card but he got it. He had to come over to me to show me I can’t do that, but he knew that was not very cool by their goalkeeper.
Heaps: [If you waste time], you do it in a tactful and tasteful way. You don’t do it where you’re flopping over and over to stall time like he did. I love that A.J. did it because the referees weren’t going to sort it out. The referees didn’t say boo to A.J. doing it, right? It was kind of like, “Yeah, alright. He may have kind of deserved it.”
Soares: I was shocked because on ESPN it was on the front page. I was like, “What the heck? It’s not a big deal. I didn’t do anything crazy.” Most of the feedback I get is very positive. Like 80% of people are like, “Oh my God, It’s so cool. The guy’s faking it.” Then, some people are like, “Wow, what a bad sport you are.” Those people obviously don’t know me. I’m not a bad sport. I’m sure that the goalkeeper would laugh about it now.
Farrell: We lost the MLS Cup then you have to decide on options and contracts for guys. We had meetings after we lost the MLS Cup right at the hotel. That’s something a lot of people don’t understand. You win the MLS Cup or you lose the MLS Cup and at that moment you have to decide contracts...No team is going to be the same. There’s always going to be guys that leave, whether it be transfer or trade or they don’t get their option picked up. That’s the last time you’re going to see some guys.
Soares: I can tell you the saddest part of 2014 is that Shalrie came back and he would train one day and be the best player on the team. Then he’d be injured for like three weeks. I just remember one day going into the training room after he had gotten injured in the training. I remember going in and he’s like sitting on the bed and is crying. That was the most heartbreaking part of 2014. For him to come to the final and be on the bench meant something...I just really wanted to go try to win. It’s not like I was doing it for him, but certainly was thinking about him, while we’re playing.
Nguyen: It’s one of those ones where you play in the league or you play long enough that you realize that these moments are so hard to come by. I know it really does show all the hard work, the sacrifices, the blood, sweat and tears that you put into it. Maybe you don’t realize, but you know it’s a moment that you really should cherish.
Goncalves: I felt proud to be there in L.A. at the MLS Cup. I felt proud for the club. I felt proud for my teammates, for myself also. Sadly we didn’t win but it was also a big achievement. I think everyone will remember this.
Heaps: It was such a special time. That was the start of, “Okay, we had a DP that was successful.” It took a little bit to say, “Okay, if you do get successful players, you will get potentially better wins and more crowds.” I think that it took someone like Bruce Arena to get there and really put everything into place. Man, it’s exciting stuff going on right now. I’m really thrilled to see how they’re doing.
Soares: [Heaps just had] the effort level. I look at Jay and his baggy suits. I’m like, “Dude, you have to trim the suit pants down.” He just put so much effort into [coaching]. I recognized that and I was like, “Wow, I want to play for Jay. I totally disagree with like 25% of this stuff he’s saying, but I don’t care because he’s putting more effort into it than anybody. He just tried as hard as he could. That’s not to say he tried and failed because I think he was successful. I think he can still be an MLS coach, to be honest. I think he’ll be unfairly pigeonholed because he was a New England guy and got fired from New England. He’s as good of a coach as like half the guys out there.
Jay would be in the game screaming and I would pretend I couldn’t hear him half the time. He would be sweating. We would win and he would be so emotionally invested he’d be crying half the time. I remember seeing Jay cry after we won. He was so into it...He was very emotional. I was emotional too. His emotion and his effort level, his work ethic, that’s the thing where people were like, “Wow. He’s putting in the effort and we better do it.” He really got us on track to be a professional club. I would say he was the one who started where New England is today. He made them build us a new weight room, for example. We used to go in and randomly lift in the Patriots weight room once every never. Jay started the process. It’s obviously way exceeded that now, but he really was important for the trajectory of where the club is now.
Jones: When people say, “Oh, you see how they’re playing now?” I say, “Yeah, it’s good, but don’t forget all the guys who were there in 2014 and moving forward. I remember when I got there, it was not like it is now. There was no training facility. They didn’t have what they have now. Those guys [in 2014] changed the whole philosophy of the soccer club. That’s why they’re having their success and achievement now because of these guys like Scott, Farrell, Teal, all of these guys who were part of this 2014 year.
Soares: The Revs could easily be the most successful club in the league with just a little bit of different luck, so I’m desperate that they win this year. I want them to win so badly. I just think it would be great for the club and all the people that have worked there for so long. I still randomly talk to Mike Burns. I think of him and what a great job he did over the years for the club. The club should win with some players that he brought in and with some of the players that Jay [Heaps] coached. Everyone is part of the history of the club. We feel part of it. I would imagine that everyone feels like they’ve played a role. I feel like I’ve played a role because when Andrew [Farrell] came and he and I were working really closely together every day. We had a great relationship. I want the team to win because I feel part of it.
The final product required the help of many people. Sam Minton was instrumental while collecting interviews. Kari Heistad provided her amazing photographs. Sean Donahue, Greg Johnstone, Drew Macomber, and Anthony Harrison helped edit. Of course, I’m thankful to those who took the time speak to me.