Revolution Must Make City Move
By Alex Fairchild
Wednesday night's US Open Cup clash was a special occasion for the New England Revolution.
Having been stationed for their existence in a difficult area to get to in Massachusetts, especially for the younger part of their fan base, the Revs took their talents to Harvard University to play New York Red Bulls. After a dreadful start to their campaign, the side, managed by former defender Jay Heaps, have turned on the style. Their May form was strong for the most part, blemished by a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. But even that loss displayed progress. In their opening 5 games, they managed one goal. Solid defense allowed them to earn points from their battles with Sporting KC and Seattle. The team took on New York and lost 4-1, before beating Philadelphia Union 2-0. A surge from Diego Fagundez righted the Revolution ship. The attacking youngster is an excellent talent, who has produced wonders to bring goals to New England.
Against an albeit weak Rochester Rhinos, the Revs faced their first test without Fagundez's goal-scoring abilities. However, they showed they could do far better. A supposed second unit routed the Rhinos, winning 5-1. Just days later, Fagundez returned to the squad for an MLS match with Los Angeles. Five flooded the net again, as the Revolution shut out their Western Conference opposition. It was shocking that a team who started the season with a single product could put 10 times that amount in the net over a two game span.
They looked to ride their fruitful wave against the league's worst team, DC United, but they came up with just a point and no goals for their home crowd. Just as it looked like their special run was fizzling, it was rebooted in the Open Cup. Kelyn Rowe was brilliant for the Revs in their 4-2 win against New York. His first goal came from a superb bit of skill that led to a cracker on 5 minutes. Fabian Espindola leveled Red Bulls at the half-hour mark, but another blast from Rowe saw the Revolution take a one goal advantage 7 minutes later. Fan favorite Dimitry Imbongo scored moments after half-time. A Jonathan Steele header halved the lead. However, the Revolution buried Red Bulls moments from time via Chris Tierney.
While the play was strong from the Revolution and extremely poor by a New York side bereft of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, it was the venue that was the match's most interesting feature. The park has enough room to maintain 2,500 people, according to Harvard. Located on Soldiers Field Road, Harvard's new facility has just one stand and two areas for supporters to sit on grass, behind the goals. Home to two dugouts, the press box side has no room for spectators. For a US Open Cup match, the urban setting was appropriate. However, with one of sport's best urban scenes at their hands, building a stadium is essential to the future of New England Revolution, yet it is a venture which the club have pushed off for far too long. Football is revered in Somerville, a city bordering Boston with a large Portuguese population. The game is constantly being played on fields, while Mexican club shirts to Messi jerseys can be found on people's backs at the local shopping center.
There is no stop to the madness of soccer in the city, while there is in Foxboro - the location of Revolution's home. The Revs are a soccer team in a football town. Bob Kraft has built quite the empire south of the city, but everything is sided towards New England Patriots, the region's American football franchise. The surrounding shopping center is called 'Patriot Place.' He and his staff would be foolish not to make the transition in order to support the soccer team. Sadly, reports on those in talks to make something happen surmise that a move will not be made unless the city in which the stadium is built is willing to fork up a significant amount of money. With constricted budgets, most cities cringe at spending tax payer money on new roads, let alone a multi-million dollar stadium. If the Revolution were to head north they would relocate in aforementioned Somerville or Revere. Both cities have convenient and inexpensive connections to Boston. Revolution games are not accessible by public transportation and unless one is willing to sit in a classic Massachusetts bottleneck, nobody can get to the stadium, especially younger supporters who lack access to a vehicle and depend on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to get to and from their destinations.
Revolution, who takeover Gillette in the summer, have one of the lowest attendances in the league. Averaging under 14,000 supporters per game, the figure is even more underwhelming with far more than 45,000 empty seats surrounding those who sport the red, white, and blue. Not only does it make the Revolution appear short of fans on television, but it also makes them a bit of joke around the city. While everyone is kidding of course, it has slipped into the city's psyche, as people still make fun of the team and MLS itself. This will continue in Massachusetts if something does not change. Also, teenagers and college kids seem a rarity due to high attendance from youth soccer programs. While it is a good bit of revenue for the team, they could easily pull in a more active base by moving to a 20,000-or-so all-seater just outside of Boston's city-limits. In fact, an increase in attendance is all but guaranteed.
Moving to a soccer-specific stadium is not for every team in the league. Seattle Sounders have the league's highest attendance and play at the home of the NFL's Seahawks. However, moving has certainly not hurt clubs, as they tend to take residence in intimate venues, allowing for a louder, more hostile environment. A move to the city would provide a boost to a Revolution franchise in need of a shot in the arm.
Those in Boston can only hope that their win this week was a step towards a new beginning.