FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Music blared in the New England Revolution locker room following Sunday afternoon’s playoff-clinching 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew, much like it has for each of the club’s 14 wins this season.
It was a festive and joyous atmosphere, to be sure, but only slightly more so than usual. While reaching the playoffs was the first goal on the Revolution’s checklist in 2013, it wasn’t the ultimate target. This initial achievement merited a moment of acknowledgement and appreciation before moving on to the next step.
In short, there’s plenty of soccer still to play.
“We’re not celebrating by any means; that’s not at all our mentality,” said third-year center back A.J. Soares, making his first appearance in the postseason as a professional. “We’re going on. We have another game. We’re going to approach it just like we approached these games (to close the season). We’re going to try and win. That’s all we can do at this point.”
In fact, the Revs have at least two more games. After climbing into third place in the Eastern Conference on the final day of the season, the Revs set up a two-leg, aggregate-goals conference semifinal series with second-seeded Sporting Kansas City. The first leg kicks off at 8 p.m. on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, before the return leg at Sporting Park next week.
New England enters the postseason as one of Major League Soccer’s hottest teams, having gone unbeaten through the last six games (4-0-2) to secure a playoff spot. During that stretch – and, really, all season – the Revs have gotten big contributions from their strong corps of youngsters.
“Obviously you play for the playoffs,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We definitely have had ups and downs this season, but I really think that we’re coming together as a group. We’re getting our young guys big minutes, big games, and they’re winning games and they’re finding results. I think that’s really important for the development of players.”
One of those players who continues to develop is 20-year-old striker Juan Agudelo, who scored the game-winning goal in this past weekend’s must-win visit to Crew Stadium. Although he’ll eventually be off to English Premier League side Stoke City, Agudelo’s immediate future and focus remains with the Revolution.
After all, there’s still more to accomplish in Foxborough.
“There’s still a lot to finish,” Agudelo said. “We have to finish it off.”