By defeating the Columbus Crew 7-3 on aggregate, the New England Revolution advanced to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2007. That year, a single-game playoff match against the Chicago Fire was played at Gillette Stadium on November 8, providing fans with a memorable experience.
The Revolution’s starting defense that night featured Matt Reis, Avery John, Michael Parkhurst and Jay Heaps. Ahead of them was Khano Smith, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson and Steve Ralston. Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman were tasked with scoring goals.
Although it was a midweek game and the temperatures were absolutely frigid, a special moment came in the 38th minute that would make everything worthwhile for the 10,317 fans in attendance.
After taking a throw-in, the ball was returned to Thompson, who pumped in a cross to Twellman. With no less than three Chicago defenders surrounding him, the Revolution legend fought for the ball before hitting a picturesque bicycle kick.
The commentators were speechless, the fans were rambunctious.
The Fire would have their chances as they forced 10 saves from Reis. The visitor’s best opportunity came in the 74th minute when the 2007 Defender of the Year Gonzalo Segares fired a long-range shot that required a diving save from the Revolution goalkeeper. The bald Superman, who was actually donning a winter cap, was unbeatable that night.
Once the final whistle was blown, fireworks were blasted as the players embraced and head coach Stevie Nicol entered the field to congratulate his men.
Times have certainly changed as Joseph and Andy Dorman are the only players that are still playing for the Revolution. Interestingly, Parkhurst is now with the Columbus Crew, the team that the Revs had to defeat to make it to the Conference Championship.
Of course, Heaps is now shouting from the sidelines instead of patrolling the backline. The Houston Dynamo, who employ Steve Ralston as an assistant coach, didn’t make the playoffs this year, but there is a chance that Heaps and the Revolution could face off against the L.A. Galaxy, who list old friends Noonan and Reis as coaches. James Riley, who entered in the 82nd minute against Chicago in 2007, is a rostered player for the Galaxy.
When asked about the difference between coaching a team in the Conference Championship and playing for a team in the Conference Championship, Heaps first joked "a lot more grey" before providing an insightful answer:
"When you’re playing, it’s different. You have to worry about what you can do, and then your little piece is going to help the overall team. When you’re a coach you worry about a lot more, and for me, and my staff, we work pretty hard."