FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It has been almost one year to the day – March 7, 2020 – since the New England Revolution last played in front of their faithful fans in Foxborough, but the agonizing wait is almost over as Gillette Stadium will welcome fans once again in 2021.
Late last week Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Commonwealth aims to transition into Phase IV of the state’s re-opening plan beginning on March 22, which will allow large capacity venues such as Gillette Stadium to open at 12 percent capacity. The Revs are slated to open their season the weekend of April 17, with a full schedule unveiled in the coming weeks.
Having played their final 10 home games of 2020 without fans in attendance because of COVID-19 restrictions, Revolution players are very much looking forward to welcoming supporters back into the building in the near future.
“It was pretty difficult playing at home without any fans, and we knew the circumstances,” said Teal Bunbury, acknowledging the necessity of health and safety protocols. “Knowing that fans are going to be back in the stands, I think that’s so uplifting for the guys; another motivating factor. Guys have motivating factors in their lives – whether it’s family, money, their faith – but I think everybody can say that a lot of (what) motivates them is going to be the fans and being able to play in front of our fans once again.”
Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner was particularly vocal about missing the fans last year, especially during an emotional speech as he accepted the club’s 2020 Team MVP award, selected by the fans. Last week’s news that fans will be allowed back in a limited capacity to begin 2021 was meaningful to him, mostly because he knows how much the club means to so many in New England.
“It’s an amazing feeling, because as much as it means to me, I know that this game means a lot to a lot of people, too, and it gives people that sense of normalcy back, not just for me, but for the fans,” Turner said on Tuesday morning. “I’m really looking forward to reconnecting, reestablishing that bond, and making Gillette Stadium a place again where (opposing teams) don’t want to come and play and where we get good results.”
Turner referenced the Revolution’s home record without fans last season (3-3-4), indicating that the return of those fans could provide the spark to push New England over the top.
“It’s something that us guys have taken note of, and we want to make sure that we do it right this season,” said Turner. “We’re really looking forward to having everyone back … It’s been a long grind, so hopefully they bring the noise.”
While it will be a limited capacity crowd to begin the season, Bunbury has no doubt that after a full year away from Gillette Stadium, Revolution fans will, indeed, bring the noise.
“The Fort is going to be rocking,” he said with a smile. “I think we’re really looking forward to it, and it can’t come soon enough. I’m looking at when is our schedule going to come out? We’re trying to get these home games settled in and marked down, and I know the fans are ready, as well.”