By CARL SETTERLUND
It was a historic day for the New England Revolution and a forgettable one for the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
Taylor Twellman (100 goals), Jay Heaps (300 appearances) and Matt Reis all reached major career milestones in a game where it really seemed like a healthy Revs squad could recapture that magic of yesteryear that’s helped them to so many memorable seasons.
For the first 56 minutes of the game on Sunday, Jay Heaps was the clear man of the match. Honored beforehand with a game ball from owner Robert Kraft, Heaps was also given captaincy of New England for the match in commemoration of his 300th appearance.
Heaps gave the Revs a lot of momentum going into the half with a stoppage time goal and then struck again when he took the ball away from rookie Nick Zimmerman then sent in a beautiful cross for Steve Ralston to set up his 52nd minute goal.
From that point on though it was all Twellman as he rose up to meet a great pass from Shalrie Joseph and headed past Jon Conway for a memorable 100th goal in the 57th minute. In the 64th, Ralston provided the pass and Twellman slotted the ball under Conway for the brace.
Twellman becomes the fifth and youngest player in MLS history to reach 100 goals (29 years, 100 days according to the Elias Sports Bureau), and you could see the emotion on his face when he scored it, how good it must have felt to get the monkey off his back after having spent the entire offseason sitting on 99. Twellman looked touched as everyone came over to congratulate him and he received a hug on the sidelines from Steve Nicol.
“If anything, that will be the highlight of my Revolution career hands down for me,” said a visibly emotional Twellman after the game. “To have everyone come over, it was pretty [freaking] cool to be honest. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It was awesome.”
Reis notched his 50th career clean sheet but he mostly had New York to thank for that as the Red Bulls continue to play atrociously on the road, having not yet scored a goal in seven road games so far.
There should be no more doom and gloom for Revs fans because everybody they need to be healthy is out on the field and they’re right up there in the standings at 4-3-4 (16 points), still with a game in hand on everyone else in the Eastern Conference. New York fell to 2-9-3 (9 points) in what’s looking more and more like a lost season.
Here are a couple of thoughts from Sunday's game:
Scoring so much can get on the bad side of a lot of fans of opposing teams and Twellman’s, but reaching a milestone like 100 goals gets you thinking about a players’ legacy. Twellman should be remembered as a player who might not have been the most skilled player MLS has seen, but he’s pesky and he’ll stick his nose in places other players won’t looking for that never scoring opportunity. Fans don’t get to see the players very much off the field and Taylor can be a little controversial at times when he speaks his mind, but he was the definition of class after the game. When asked if this solidifies him as one of the greatest forwards in MLS history he didn’t take the bait. “I could give you about ten things I have to work on so nope,” Twellman said. “I think the cool thing is that it symbolizes the run that we’ve had with Stevie Nicol. First and foremost he deserves a lot of credit with bringing the players in here and it’s a team thing. I know my name is at the end with the goals and stuff but it’s just because everyone else is doing their job and getting the ball in front of the net.”
Does the continued sturdy performance of Emmanuel Osei, Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston make Chris Albright and Gabriel Badilla expendable? All offseason Revs fans were no doubt worried about whether Stevie Nicol could patch the hole left in the defense when Michael Parkhurst left. When Nicol and crew didn’t make a big splash in the offseason there was more cause for concern because Badilla looked error-prone in his short time with the team last season and Albright isn’t the player he once was. It’s still up in the air if this defense is good enough to make a run at the MLS Cup, but they’re certainly in better shape then we thought and there’s a nice little bit of youth and depth to the unit now.
At age 32, a lot of us have been expecting a precipitous drop-off from Jay Heaps probably since the beginning of last season and it just won’t come. For so long it’s gone overlooked that Heaps continues to adjust to the limitations age creates and that he works his tail off every game for this team so it feels fitting to give him his kudos with a little mini-bio on what the Longmeadow, Mass. product has done in his 11-year career: Heaps was drafted out of Duke by the Miami Fusion with the second overall pick in the 1999 MLS Draft. It takes longevity to reach 300 appearances and Heaps has played in a minimum of 27 games in every season of his career. He was traded to New England in 2001 and has been a stalwart on a team that’s been to the playoffs for seven straight seasons now. Heaps turned in a real gem against the Red Bulls and it’s a testament to his hard work that he’s still an asset and not a liability at his advanced age.
New York right now really just seems like a collection of talented players and not a team. Apart from a few streaking runs from Dane Richards in the first half and glimmers from Angel and Ubiparipovic there wasn’t much to talk about in terms of New York’s performance. Nobody really seemed like they want to break out of this slump that badly and it just seems like it’s not really clicking out there on the field. If this continues, Osorio has to fall on the sword on this one because he’s responsible for his team’s performance and his personnel just isn’t getting it done.
That must be some doghouse Khano Smith has gotten himself into to not be able to get onto the field when the team is playing this poorly. It would have been nice for him and for the fans to have him have a solid game in his return to Gillette Stadium. After playing against D.C. United on Thursday, New York ran out of gas in the second half and it would have been a good opportunity to get Smith in there but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Anyone else notice those yellow boots Twellman has been showcasing? Actually, it’s hard to miss them. There’s actually an interesting story behind them. At the request of Twellman, Nike hooked him up with those custom cleats, which he wears as a tribute to his grandfather. “My favorite color has been yellow. My grandfather’s favorite color was yellow, so when he passed away two years ago I asked them to make me a pair of yellow boots,” Twellman said.
What sort of momentum does this win give New England going forward? Can New York bounced back after getting trounced on the road again? What do these accomplishments say about the careers that Twellman, Reis and Heaps have had? Share your thoughts below.