One newcomer's guide to being a New England Revolution fan
This summer I became a Revolution fan. Part of it was the team turning it around and part of it was me genuinely checking out soccer for the first time. Either way, I'm hooked as I watch this team, despite still knowing exactly nothing about the sport.
It's not too late for you to jump on the Revs train, so here's a guide from someone who recently did.
WHY THEY'RE EXCITING
While the Red Sox were out there stinking up the summer, the Revs were turning around a lost season by hiring a legendary coach and adding a star player. Now the regular season is wrapping up and they're sitting in the seventh and final playoff spot, which is probably where they'll stay.
Eastern Conference as of Sept. 26
|1. NYC FC||61 points|
|2. Philadelphia Union||55 points|
|3. Atlanta United FC||54 points|
|4. D.C. United||48 points|
|5. New York Red Bulls||47 points|
|6. Toronto FC||46 points|
|7. New England Revolution||42 points|
|8. Chicago Fire||38 points|
*Top seven teams make playoffs
BRUCE ARENA, HEAD COACH/SPORTING DIRECTOR
This is Bruce Arena.
The Revs' turnaround can be traced to his hiring in mid-May. Arena is a legend, both soccer-wise and just from him being the absolute coolest. He's won five MLS Cups and used to coach the U.S. Men's National Team.
More importantly, he's this super New Yorky dude with an unreal sense of humor. His halftime interviews during the broadcasts are unbelievable, as he's both blunt and casual. Other coaches wear suits and ties during games, but Bruce wears a black tee or, if it's a little nippy, a black sweatshirt. King stuff.
This is the star player and newcomer. The Revs had a bit of reputation of not being big spenders, but the line of thinking was that with the hiring of Arena, that would change. It did when the Revs signed the Argentinian forward in July, making him their highest-paid player.
He's been awesome so far, scoring eight goals in 12 games. A lot of those goals have been absolutely filthy, but my favorite was this one in the 86th minute to break a tie against Chicago. I watch this goal every time I'm feeling blue.
Also in his first season with the Revs, Gil is the other star. He's an "attacking midfielder," which does me no good because of the soccer positions, I only understand "goalie" and "forward." That said, "mid" sounds right because this guy is in the middle of EVERYTHING. He sets up a ton of the Revs' scoring chances. He's the Rostam to Bou's Koenig.
One of the coolest things about Gil is that he goes full name "CARLES GIL" on the back of his jersey. Power moves only.
Matt Turner is the goalie and has been unbelievable this summer. Undrafted out of Fairfield University, Turner's talent was essentially unearthed by Freidel.
In his second year as the starter, Turner's been dynamite. Arena agrees, as he gave the 25-year-old a multi-year extension last month.
THE REST OF THE TEAM
I'm a huge Michael Mancienne guy. Teal Bunbury rules, and his sister is an actress who played the girl who accidentally slept with a fake Denzel Washington in "Game Night."
You wanna talk a little Cristian Penilla? Some Juan Fernando Caicedo? Maybe even some Diego Fagundez? I could go on all day.
Charlie is retired, but he's like Revolution royalty the way I see it. He's a New Hampshire kid who went to Boston College before forgoing the MLS to play in Europe. He played for the U.S. Men's Team and then spent a few seasons with the Revs at the end of his career.
He does a lot of TV stuff now, including with us at NBC Sports Boston, where his reach far extends past soccer. He is the nicest dude in the world and soccer fans absolutely love him.
WHAT HAPPENED THE OTHER NIGHT?
Wednesday's game ruled. In their third-to-last game of the season and in need of a point to keep separation in the playoff race, the Revs got smoked in the second half, falling behind, 2-0. In the 87th minute (there are 90), Bou scored to bring the Revs within one. Then during stoppage time (the extra few minutes they play before the game's over), a video review showed a Revs guy got pushed down in a way that's frowned upon, giving the Revs a penalty kick (they sometimes just call it a "penalty" for short) at the end of the game.
Gil took it and made it, tying the game. I felt bad for the Portland goalie because he guessed the correct side, and I feel like if a goalie guesses right on a penalty it should count as a save. Anyway, the Revs got a huge point and it was dramatic as hell.
TALKING ABOUT SOCCER WITHOUT KNOWING IT
My main strategy is commenting on the "pitch," which is the soccer field. I just say stuff like "the pitch looks beautiful. Great night for a match."
Or "No wonder they lost that road game, playing on that trash-ass pitch. [Home team] ought to be ashamed of themselves."
One of the more wild things is the excitement that comes when there are potential penalties or fouls in soccer. I suppose it's like watching a ref announce a penalty in football without speaking the same language as the ref or understanding which way they're pointing. All you know is there's a lot of hullabaloo, and within a few minutes of the game resuming you'll understand what affect the whole ordeal actually had on the game.
Maybe the best Bruce Arena halftime spot revolved around video review, when the Revs had caught one break thanks to VAR and then got a goal taken away because of it. He casually said video review isn't that bad an idea, but that the people in charge of it are just incompetent. Classic Bruce.
"The Fort" is the part of the stadium behind the Revs net where the loudest fans — in soccer they're called "supporters," which is a ZILLION times cooler than "fans" — stand and scream the whole game. They sing songs, including "I Will Follow Him," for some reason, but I love that. Any time sports and Sister Act can intersect, I'm with it.
The Fort is also where you'll find a group of supporters called The Midnight Riders. It's like The Finer Things Club in "The Office." Just cool as hell. They've got their own clothes, their own spot for tailgating (tailgating is BIG with Revs games) and organize bus trips for road games. I took some friends to a Revs game this summer and they were just as impressed with the Riders as they were with the squad.
THE REST OF THE SEASON/PLAYOFFS
The Revs have two games left. They're firmly sitting in seventh (there are seven playoff spots; look up the standings, or "table," yourself if you have any questions) and could perhaps clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win over top seed NYC FC, who is really good. You get three points for a win and one for a draw.
The MLS playoffs are single-elimination now, which they weren't before. That's apparently not common in soccer — a lot of leagues don't even have playoffs — but I'm crazy about it. It means that all it takes is one good game for a giant to fall; the Revs would have beaten NYC FC earlier this month if it weren't for a red card (player tossed from the game, suspended for the next and the team has to play the rest of the game down a man) against the Revs that the league rescinded afterwards.