11_7_21_LiftShield

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution players waited more than two weeks to officially lift the Supporters’ Shield after clinching Major League Soccer’s best regular season record back on October 23, but that was nothing compared to the club’s 26-year wait to claim a first league trophy.

That wait finally came to an end on Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium, where the Revs closed out their 34-game regular-season schedule with an MLS record 73 points and accepted the Shield from their loyal supporters in the Midnight Riders and Rebellion, lifting the trophy in front of 31,635 boisterous fans.

“It’s great, especially for this franchise,” said sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena, who had won three previous Supporters’ Shields with other clubs but admitted he’d never celebrated them with a trophy lift. “I think they’ve had a fabulous regular season. It’s historical, right? … It’s the most points in the history of the league.

“A great year. I’m happy for the players. I’m happy for the fans, especially the ones that have been here for 26 years, if there are any. So, you know, that’s a nice moment.”

While the players had their own mini celebration when the Shield was officially clinched during a bus ride in Orlando 15 days ago, they spent the past two weeks watching supporters post photo after photo with the trophy, waiting anxiously for their opportunity to get their hands on the prize. When that moment finally arrived on Sunday evening, they made sure to revel in the accomplishment.

“A culmination of all the hard work we put in this season,” said second-year defender Henry Kessler. “It was great to get our hands on some silverware. I’ve certainly been anxious to do so since we had it clinched for three games now. Some of the supporters have made me pretty jealous, because it’s the Supporters’ Shield, so they’ve had their fun with it already. So I’m like, ‘When do we get our turn?’ Tonight we did, and I think we’ll continue to celebrate it.”

Those celebrations captured more than just the Supporters’ Shield triumph and the single-season points record (73), as the Revs also tied MLS records for winning percentage (.750) and non-shootout wins in a season (22), while they matched the best home record in club history (12-2-3). They also won the Eastern Conference by 19 points, the largest margin by which any MLS team has ever won a conference.

“This is special,” said Tommy McNamara, who captured his first Supporters’ Shield in his eighth MLS season. “There’s not too many moments that guys get to win trophies, so it’s a special moment for the club, for the supporters, to win the Supporters’ Shield for the first time in our history.

“It’s a disappointing result and game, but we’ve got to look at the overall season and be very happy with what we did. We’ll celebrate it tonight, and then tomorrow we need to shift our mindset and start getting ready for the playoffs.”

Kessler did call the Shield celebrations “a little bittersweet” because of the Revolution’s 1-0 loss to Inter Miami CF on Sunday – a result that snapped the Revolution’s 10-game unbeaten run (7-0-3) – but he also said that Arena wanted to make sure their accomplishments weren’t forgotten because of one poor result.

There will be plenty of time to prepare for the Eastern Conference Semifinals – slated for later in November, when the Revs will host the winner of the first-round meeting between New York City FC and Atlanta United FC – and it won’t take long for the focus to firmly shift to that match. But on Sunday, it was all about celebrating the accomplishments of a most remarkable season.

“It’s a big moment for me individually, it’s a big moment for the club, the supporters,” said McNamara. “To be together and to celebrate it coming out of the pandemic, it’s a really special time for all of us. So, just going to take it all in and enjoy it, enjoy what we did after the game, enjoy the celebration, the postgame celebration, and then move on from there.”