BRADENTON, Florida – New England defender Andrew Farrell is proud to be known as the team’s ‘Mr. Revolution.’
Entering his 12th season at Gillette Stadium since his arrival as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 SuperDraft, the center back stands as the club’s all-time record appearance maker, having stepped out in the jersey on more than 360 occasions in all competitions.
Very much considered part of the furniture in Foxborough, Farrell has witnessed firsthand the growth of both the club and the league over the past decade, cementing himself as a true Revs legend: a fan favorite, defensive rock, pillar of the community, and the heart and soul of the locker room.
Described by new head coach Caleb Porter as a ‘charismatic’ leader – and a crucial component in helping to instill a positive team culture – the two-time club Humanitarian of the Year is thrilled to be continuing his journey with the Revs. Heading into the 2024 campaign full of optimism, the 31-year-old is desperate to crown his New England career with more trophies, relishing the chance to make a meaningful impact both on and off the pitch.
“I’m excited to still be with this club, and excited for what’s to come,” Farrell said. “It feels great. I’m definitely one of the older guys on the team, one of the longer-tenured guys here, and it’s been great so far.
“As the league has grown, as a club, we’ve grown – obviously, there are the facilities we have now, the structure of the front office, the players we’re able to bring in; the players that we’ve brought up through the academy. That’s where I’ve noticed it the most, but then it’s also the fan engagement, the social media, the coverage – everything’s grown and that’s a big plus.
“With each year, it’s gotten better and better. It’s exciting to see where we are now, and to see the things that have been put into place for the future. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy that Caleb is here with the new coaching staff, and the players we have – we have a great group. I’m excited for the Concacaf Champions Cup, all of the trophies we’re playing for.
“I don’t think I ever thought I’d play this long, and I didn’t think I’d be in one spot. You just never know how long you’re going to be able to play, especially with coaching changes and movement in the front office, but I’ve enjoyed being here. I’ve had multiple coaches, so I’m used to being part of a new team with a new coach, new philosophies and systems, and a lot of players coming and going.
“I haven’t [sat down to reflect], not yet. There are certain things – like, we’ve had league meetings lately where we’ve seen clips from 2014, 2015, and I’m like: ‘I played against some of these guys!’ It’s little moments like that where I kind of think: ‘I’ve been in the league for a while,’ but not too much.
“Every day, I try to compete at a high level, and bring that intensity – and I think that’s something coaches really enjoy, and value: someone who is ready to train every day. I always try to bring the energy, and that can sometimes be contagious for the guys (younger guys and older guys) to get the vibes going.
“I enjoy it because it’s just part of my personality, it’s really easy – it’s just being myself. It’s not necessarily ‘part of my job’, but I think it’s part of creating a good work environment. Whether it’s in sports, a front office, a 9-5, I think having that sense of community, a sense of a group – everyone getting along, where everyone’s thoughts and ideas are important – and knowing the time to be serious but also the time to have fun and joking around … Being able to create that culture, that family; bringing everyone together – I know how important it is for a group, especially when you want to be successful, to have that camaraderie, and that trust.
“I think I can play at a decent level still, and I think being bilingual, and being able to help out with that kind of stuff – all of these things add to things coaches see that they want to have on part of their team. I think that’s why I’ve stuck around for so long!
“Maybe in my high school team, I was one of the best players on the team, but I’ve always played with very talented players. I think the main thing is: trying to find the role you can fill, and then try to be the best you can be at that role. I can play in multiple positions, I can speak multiple languages, I’m good in the community – and if you can if you can tick seven or eight of the 10 boxes, a lot of the time, coaches, front offices, people want to be around you, and think you can help the team, creating that culture.
“We’ve talked about the values, and the things we want to be as a group, and being one of the leaders on the team, having a Leadership Council. It’s important to be able to have different perspectives from different guys, and different guys lead in different ways: some guys lead by example, some are more vocal. Caleb has talked about keeping guys accountable. We had conversations about being a leader, bringing what I bring to the table – not trying to do too much, or more than who you are – and that’s important.”
With full focus on the future, Farrell may be yet to assess his incredible veteran career in MLS – but he and Porter have had the chance to take a trip down Memory Lane, recollecting a day in 2010 where the pair locked horns on opposing teams: Farrell lining up for the University of Louisville in the NCAA National Championship against a gifted University of Akron side led by Porter.
Victorious with a solitary strike from future Revolution legend Scott Caldwell – who officially announced his retirement following an 11-year MLS playing career on Friday – Porter has joked of his intention to make amends by hopefully guiding Farrell to silverware with the Revolution, a gesture the defender would certainly be willing to accept, and the 31-year-old has been impressed with the head coach’s impact so far.
“We talked about it a little bit,” the center back smiled. “Scottie Caldwell (a former Revolution player) scored the goal, but we had a chance to tie it – Aaron Horton, who had scored in the last two games to get us to that point, had one saved off the line that he probably should have scored, which would have made it a game.
“That Akron team was stacked. We were pretty good, but we were kind of the underdogs – their starting XI went pro, and four or five guys off the bench went pro. They had so many good players on that team. I wish I’d have won the National Championship, but they were a pretty strong team. With Caleb coaching there, they were really well-coached. I know he’ll make it up to me.
“I’m enjoying [preseason] with the new coaching staff, the new philosophies Caleb has brought in, and the guys are adapting to it. We’re still learning, getting through steps of how he wants us to play, but the growth from week one to the end of week three [in Florida] has been pretty good. We’re pretty happy with how that’s gone.
“It’s obviously different just because he has his philosophies, the way he wants to play, so we’re learning that through preseason. Over the last four years, we had another philosophy and style of play. Everyone is learning what he wants, and it’s fun.
“It’s demanding – not just physically but mentally – but it’s very rewarding because when we do it, it just seems seamless, it’s easy. That’s been nice: learning the philosophies, then executing it, and then seeing how it works. It just reinforces why we’re doing it the way we’re doing it.
“[As a defender] it’s fun, because as an outside back, you get forward, and as a center back, you create the game – you set the tempo for the pace of the passing, and breaking lines, and how we want to swing the ball around. You get to be part of the attack, you can start the attack, but he also loves defending, he loves clean sheets.
“He says you’ve got to either be a player who creates goals, scores goals, or stops goals. If you’re a great player, you can do all three; a really good player can do two of them, and if you can do one really well, that’s great. If you can do multiple, we love that, but if you can do one, and it’s to stop goals, be great at that. Guys are looking forward to contributing – doing one, two or all three of them. That’s stuck with a lot of us – me, as well.”
Porter hailed one of Farrell’s key qualities as his versatility – a trait that has certainly proven a valuable asset over the years, and one that could prove vital again this term.
With right back Brandon Bye still sidelined (and Dylan Borrero also a long-term absentee), defensive roles could be rotated – but with the pair set to return midseason, and the Revs bolstered by the signings of Nick Lima and Jonathan Mensah (as well as goalkeeper Henrich Ravas), Farrell is delighted by the strength of the backline.
“We’re very deep, which is good,” he continued, “because the first game we play is a Wednesday, then we play Saturday at D.C., and then we play another game. We’re going to need everybody, and everyone has embraced that role: one week you might play, there are going to be minutes for everyone, and everyone is going to need to be ready to play that role, and be able to step up.
“It’s been great, and having Brandon and Dylan getting back healthy is going to be huge. Obviously, we’ve signed Nick, and Jona, and Henrich, but having them come back – two guys who have been MLS starters, two already-known quality guys – will be like having two brand new signings, who already know the league and have been successful in the league. It’s exciting.
“Nick and Jona have been great – Nick has been really good, and with Jona’s leadership and style in how he plays (he’s already played in the system so it’s very easy) – he talks to all of us, and explains certain things Caleb wants us to do. When we’re out there practicing, he’ll tell us: ‘Hey, maybe do this’, and that’s what Caleb wants to see – he’s like a coach as well on the field for us, and that’s been really helpful.
“Henrich has done really well too. He’s very communicative, very positive, and that helps so much. From day one, he’s been very talkative and even off the field, getting to know us, which is really helpful to build that bond amongst the group of the back six as the defenders.
“We’ve talked about playing different formations, different positions. I told Caleb I’m always open to playing anywhere, and even if I’m not playing, I’m still going to be here for the team to help out. It’s just being available, and being open to everything the coaching staff is saying, trying to integrate everyone together as a team.
“I’ve played outside back a little bit, at center back – wherever he needs me, and if he doesn’t need me, I’m always available. With Brandon being out, me and Nick are going to have to carry that, and then at center back as well, Henry and Dave [Romney], and Jona and me, are going to have to do those roles – but I’m open to anything and everything. I’m happy to be here to help the team.”
The Revs wrap up week three of their preseason training camp in Florida with a friendly against Orlando City SC on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET), before completing their warm-up schedule with back-to-back scrimmages against the Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati on Wednesday and Thursday.
Building fitness, rhythm and relationships day-by-day, Farrell has been pleased with the progress, and has been especially excited by the performance of 18-year-old Esmir Bajraktarević, who has impressed since earning his United States Men’s National Team debut in January.
“Everyone has looked good at different moments,” he noted. “Esmir had a really good January camp, and he’s looked very good. He’s going to help us a lot.
“There are a lot of younger guys – Malcolm Fry, Jack Panayotou, Peyton Miller have been with us. Ian Harkes has looked good too.
“I’m excited. We’re two-deep in every spot – [as a player] that can be frustrating at times because you know someone else is going to be playing, but everyone has been really competitive, knowing that when their time comes, they’ll be ready.
“We’re pretty deep – there’s not going to be a drop-off at all, so we can play different XIs, and compete at a high level – and that’s going to great for success.
“It feels like a new era. I want to win a trophy for this team. It’s something that I’ve wanted, and it’s something that not only myself but Caleb, and all of the guys, the coaching staff are looking forward to. We’ve put a team together that can do that – the depth in each position, the hunger the guys have, and with a guy like Carles [Gil], anything is possible. I’m looking forward to it.”