New England Revolution
New England Revolution or ‘The Revs’ are an American soccer team based out of Foxborough, Massachusetts. The team competes in the US Major League Soccer league, making them one of the top 14 US teams playing the game and one of only 8 teams to have been playing since the league was established in 1996. Although they are based in Foxborough, The Revs represent the entire state of New England in the MLS.
New England Revolution was founded in October 1995 as one of the original ten teams in MLS. Owned and operated by Robert Kraft, it boasted it boasted U.S internationals Alexi Lalas and Mike Burns as two of its founding players.
The Revs first three seasons were not a good start. They ended the 1996 season bottom of the Eastern Conference having lost 17 of their 32 matches. Things seemed to improve in 1997 when Thomas Rongen replaced previous head coach Frank Stapleton and took the Revs to their first MLS Cup play-offs. Despite replicating 1996’s 15-17 win-lose record, the Revs made it to the MLS cup quarterfinals where they were beaten by the reigning champions DC United.
In 1999, the Revolution made several key signings, including US national team captain John Harkes. However, the Revs still finished the season 12-20, an improvement on 1998 but still nowhere near good enough for play-offs. However, it was towards the end of 1999 that the team was to make one of their most important signings, Steve Nicol. an experienced interim player-coach who helped them win their last two matches.
The Revs brought in US national defender Fernando Clavijo as new head-coach for the 2000 season. This infusion of new blood seemed to bring a newfound optimism and the Revs went on to enjoy their best season to date, finishing 13-13-6, coming second in the Eastern Conference and entering the MLS Cup quarter-finals for the second time, sadly losing out to Chicago Fire.
The 2000 season proved a turning point for the Revs and they carried the momentum into 2001. Although they lost their first six matches and failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs, they enjoyed several strong stretches. More importantly, 2001 was to see the Revs storm the US Open Cup, fighting their way to the finals where they took LA Galaxy to an extra-time nail-biter before eventually conceding the game 2-1.
In 2002, the pieces finally fell into place. After an unexceptional 1-2-1 start to the season, the Revs crushed Dallas Burn 2-0 in their first game at the newly built Gillette Stadium. Clavijo resigned but his place was soon filled by the returning Steve Nicol who took over as head-coach and pushed the Revs into a five-win, one-loss streak which won them their third MLS playoff spot.
They stormed through the quarter-finals, beating Chicago Fire, and the semi-finals, sweeping aside Columbus Crew, thus reaching their first MLS Cup Final, facing LA Galaxy. Just like the Open Cup final the year before, the match went right up to the wire, each team proving the other’s equal, until, in the 113th minute, Galaxy stole the victory with a golden goal.
Though disappointed, the Revs were not downhearted. Steve Nicol received the MLS Coach of the Year award for the season but the Revs got something more important; belief.
The streak continued into 2003. Despite a two month period mid-season where the Revs went without a win, they finished 12-9-9, second in the Eastern Conference and with a place in the MLS Cup playoffs.
After beating the New York MetroStars in the quarter-finals, the Revs sadly lost their place in the MLS Cup final to Chicago Fire, courtesy of a 101st minute golden goal by Chicago’s Chris Armas in the Eastern Conference final. The Revs could, however, take solace in the fact that they finished 2003 as the highest scoring team in the MLS, with 55 goals.
A rough season lay ahead of the Revs in 2004, with the team winning just one of their first 7 games. This losing streak was transformed as they chalked up seven wins in a row but the Revs still began September at the bottom of the league.
This was soon to change as a five game no-loss streak catapulted them up the tables and into the MLS playoffs for the third year running. Knocking Columbus Crew aside to reach the Eastern Conference final and MLS Cup semi-final, the Revs were again deprived of victory at the last minute when they lost to DC United on penalties. However, the game, where the Revs came from behind 3 times to take the match to a draw, is widely regarded as the team’s finest.
The next season, 2005, is now seen as the Revs’ best. The team won 17 of its matches and 59 points in the league, a club record. They also managed to put together an 11 game unbeaten streak to clinch a place in the playoffs.
The Revs beat New York MetroStars on aggregate and took Chicago Fire 1-0 to top the Eastern Conference and grab a place in the MLS Cup Final. Sadly they were frustrated by LA Galaxy, losing 1-0 in double overtime.
Difficulties hit the 2006 season as injuries and international call-ups limited the Revs initial success. In fact, Steve Nicol was forced to use a different starting 11 for each game. However, a late five victories pushed the Revs once more into the play-offs.
They took Chicago Fire on penalties, brushed aside DC United 1-0 to take the Eastern Conference Championship and walked confidently once more into the MLS Cup Final. The championship game against Houston Dynamo could not have been closer but in the end the Revs suffered from the same story, a 4-3 loss on penalties robbing them of the gold.
In 2007 the title drought finally broke. The Revs were consistently in the top two of their conference for the entire season. Mid-season brought joy as the Revs clinched the US Open Cup with a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas.
After a slight end-of-season slump, the Revs once again entered the playoffs and easily trumped the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire, beating both 1-0. Into the MLS Cup final again but the team’s Open success couldn’t be replicated and Houston Dynamo took the cup 2-1.
Until their 3-2 victory against FC Dallas netted the Revs the 2007 US Open Cup, they were one of only three teams in Major League Soccer to have been in existence before 2005 and never to have won a major trophy. However, with the 2008 season seeing them top of the Eastern Conference with a win against MLS Cup winners Houston Dynamo, perhaps the tables are starting to turn for New England Revolution.
The Team and the Fans
The New England Revolution’s name is a reference to the part that the state of New England played in the American War of Independence. The team’s colours of navy blue, red and white are designed, not only to mimic the red, white and blue of the US flag but also the colours of New England’s Minutemen militia during the War of Independence.
The Revs also have one of the most unorthodox goal celebrations in the MLS with a group of mascots dressed as American revolutionaries firing muskets into the air.
The Revs have two supporter groups; the Rev Army and the Midnight Riders. Both supporter groups occupy the north stand of Gillette Stadium, an area which they have nicknamed ‘The Fort’ to continue the team’s revolutionary theme.
The Midnight Riders are the club’s unofficial fan-club and view themselves as the most passionate Revolution supporters. Their name comes from the most famous of the Minutemen, Paul Revere, and his midnight ride to warn the American forces of the British Army’s march on the armoury at Concord.
Of all of the fans in the MLS, Revolution fans are the most like British fans, using banners and drums and making up their own chants and songs. The Midnight Riders also had their own fanzine, titled (bizarrely) ‘Pictures of Chairman Mao’.
This name came from the Beatle’s song ‘Revolution’ (again continuing the theme) and the magazine proved popular with fans for five years from its founding in 1995. Sadly, Pictures of Chairman Mao was forced to fold in 2000. An online cover gallery still exists here.
The Revs’ first home ground was Foxboro Stadium (originally named Sullivan Stadium), a ground which they shared with the New England Patriots American Football team. By the time the Revs moved in, the stadium was over 20 years old already, having been built in 1971 for the incredibly low cost of $4 million ($37.5 million in today’s money).
Sadly this scrimping on costs left the stadium under-equipped with the luxury seating and private boxes and meant that the pitch never drained properly, often becoming a mud bowl. These difficulties made Foxboro unsuitable for the Revs to play at and the ground was demolished in late 2001.
The Revs moved to a new $325 million state-of-the-art stadium, Gillette Stadium, built for them by team owner Robert Kraft. This new stadium has a capacity of almost 69,000 and is the only stadium with its own 12-storey-high lighthouse.
It also has Patriot Place, ‘a super regional lifestyle and entertainment centre’ containing a 4-star hotel and ‘The Hall at Patriot Place’, a museum of New England Patriots and New England Revolution achievements.
- MLS Cup – Runners-up (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007)
- US Open Cup – Winners (2007), Runners-up (2001)
- MLS Supporters’ Shield – Runners-up (2005)
- Eastern Conference Championship – Winners (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007), Runners Up (2003, 2004)