Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Ma.
Major League Soccer: New England Revolution – Chivas USA 4-0
The 6 States that make up New England; Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island, are not brimming with professional sports clubs, each of the major American sports is only represented once at the highest level.
In spite of this, they are accustomed to Championships and winning teams: the Boston Celtics won the NBA finals in 2008 and are record holders with 17 championships, the Boston Red Sox won the World series in 2004 and 2007 and the New England Patriots won the Super bowl in 2002, 2004 and 2005 and lost Super bowl XLII against their rivals of the New York Giants.
The New England Revolution’s trophy cabinet pales by comparison, while they may be one of the best teams in the MLS they only added their first trophy in 2007 when they won the US Open Cup at the expense of Dallas.
They contested the MLS Cup four times but lost to the LA Galaxy in 2002 and 2005 and in the two previous seasons the Houston Dynamo was victorious.
The Revolution did get some form of revenge in this season’s Super League, a competition between the best teams from the MLS and the Mexican Primera Division, which they won against Houston.
This year confidence runs high at the Revs and a win against Chivas, the number 2 in the Western Conference, would remove the last doubts about their chances of winning the MLS cup this year.
Chivas USA is, as opposed to the Revolution, not a founding member of the MLS. The club was founded in 2004 in Los Angeles by the owners of the popular Mexican club CD Guadalajara and sports the same colors: a red-white striped shirt with blue pants. The name itself comes from the nickname of Guadalajara: Chivas or “goats”. After a disastrous first season in which they only had 1 win, they now routinely occupy the top of the Western Conference, most of the time ahead of their hated city rivals: the Galaxy.
New England does not play its home games in a specific football stadium such as Chivas but uses the immense Gillette stadium of the New England Patriots. Like many sports centers in the US, this stadium is not near a city, Foxborough is located 50 km from Boston and 90 km from Providence and public transport connections are nonexistent. I rent a car and drive from Boston through probably the ugliest piece of New England before arriving in Foxborough.
Gillette Stadium is the wet dream of every project developer: there’s the stadium itself, but just outside of it is an outside shopping area, including a cinema with 14 screens, an interactive fishing shop and a restaurant of the TV giant CBS.
In a second phase the plans also include a 4-star hotel and a real shopping mall.
I drive to car park 10, the location of the former Foxboro stadium, and park next to some American families who are already enjoying their tailgate party.
For us Europeans this is a strange concept but in the US it is quite normal to arrive hours before the match, open the trunk of your car or pick up truck (hence tailgate) produce a barbecue set and spend the next few hours with grilled steak, hamburgers and beer.
I have no barbecue set so I set off in the direction of the Stadium.
The Gillette stadium is a gem, high stands that are close to the pitch provide excellent views and with a few architectural touches, such as the lighthouse and the bridge, it differentiates itself from the average large stadium.
I visit the little club stand and buy various pieces of merchandise and a regular coke (1 liter!). Not having to worry about dehydration I go looking for my seat, the general admission ticket that I have purchased gives me access to the area I had already scouted: sections 142-143, also known as “The Fort”.
The Fort is a “standing” section and is populated by the hardcore fans of the Revs: these European-style supporters groups include the Midnight Riders (a reference to Paul Revere’s role in the American Revolution) and Rev’s Army.
As it is 9-11 there is a short memorial before the game. Soldiers of the national guard and a fly over by Blackhawk helicopter receive a standing ovation. When half minute later a pack of geese flying in formation also cross the stadium they as well receive a standing ovation by sections 142 and 143. The other stand happily joins in.
Stand in singular indeed because where as the Revolution normally attracts around 18,000 spectators the attendance is significantly less today.
This is due to the day (Thursday) but also because both the Patriots and the Red Sox have important games as well this week.
I glance over the team lineups in the programme I bought and don’t recognize a single name. Both Chivas as New England apparently don’t yet have the appeal of the NY Red Bulls or the LA Galaxy. Yet New England had quite a few famous players in their first years. Players like Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda and the then geriatric Walter Zenga.
A small survey within the Fort tells me that especially goalkeeper Reis and Taylor Twellman are fan favourites.
The first half isn’t setting the Stadium alight, the tactics of both clubs seem to be limited to back-and-forth passing in midfield and the scarce opportunities are squandered.
The atmosphere in The Fort is a lot better than on the pitch, there are drums, flags, songs and curses. The repertoire of songs is about the same as the English national team to which they added “New”. It’s not always a successful addition but I’m not complaining.
After the break the Revs play significantly better and in the 53rd minute that effort is rewarded as Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston, who returned from injury, cut through the heart of the Chivas defense. With a bit of luck the ball finds it way back to Twellman who coolly finishes. The 97th MLS goal for Twellman who is now 5th on the all-time scorer list of the MLS.
The people in The Fort go crazy and the previously distributed paper streamers are used in abundance. Unfortunately it also signals a return back to the playing style of the first half. Chivas wants to attacks but the few chances are easily saved by goalkeeper Reis and New England seems to be satisfied with a 1-0.
Until the 83rd minute: Steve Ralston delivers a ball to Jeff Larentowicz outside of the box and Larentowicz fires a quick shot at goal . Chivas goalkeeper Kennedy sees the ball far too late and cannot react: 2-0 for the home team and I prepare myself for a boring last 10 minutes.
But the Revs suddenly find their second wind and the goats from L.A. are scattering. K.C. Smith can easily advance through the Chivas defense in the 90th minute and beat Kennedy with a low shot in the bottom right corner.
About a minute later Man of the Match Ralston is left completely unguarded on a Twellman free kick and scores the Patriots fourth and last goal of the evening.
The New England fans are returning home happy and with 6 more matches to go in the season are assured of the playoffs and a new chance to take the MLS cup. I walk back to my car behind a little girl and her father shouting Rev-O-Lu-Tion. The future of The Fort seems guaranteed as well.