FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the New England Revolution prepare to visit FC Dallas on Tuesday night for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final, many of the players and coaches are drawing upon valuable experience from previous championship games.
New England’s entire coaching staff and 14 current players were part of the 2014 team that reached the MLS Cup final, and although they suffered a crushing defeat to the LA Galaxy in extra time of that game, they believe that the experience of playing on the biggest stage will prove valuable on Tuesday.
“All the guys who were on that team are ready,” said Andrew Farrell, who played the full 120 minutes of that 2014 MLS Cup final. “We’ve all played big games. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
“[Experience] helps a lot,” said head coach Jay Heaps, who played in six cup finals with the Revolution as a player before leading them to that MLS Cup final two years ago. “It’s a one-off and everything’s on the line. The Open Cup prepares you a little bit for that because you have one-offs the entire year.
“But this is a bigger moment, national television. The guys who have had the experience will be able to be prepared in knowing what to expect once the whistle blows.”
The Revs also feature a pair of players who’ve not only played in an Open Cup final, but have won it. Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara were part of the Sporting Kansas City squad that won the title in 2012, with Kamara scoring Sporting KC’s lone goal in regulation and converting from the spot in the shootout.
Kamara says nerves are natural in the buildup – particularly on game day – but it’s about controlling those emotions and using the adrenaline to put forth a top performance once the whistle blows.
“For us to be in this position right now is really, really good,” said Kamara, who will be evaluated ahead of the final after missing Saturday night’s win over New York City FC with a hip strain. “We’re going to play Dallas in their house, and it’s not going to be easy. We really have to be focused going out there, but we’ve got to go for it. It’s everything or nothing.”
While the majority of New England’s roster has cup final experience, for some it will be a new challenge. That includes Juan Agudelo, a seventh-year pro who’s made five appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs but has never appeared in a professional title game.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Agudelo, who has two goals and one assist in the past two games. “We need to understand that when we look back at it, we’re not going to get opportunities like this [all the time].”
The Revs do, however, have the opportunity to win a trophy – and claim a spot in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League – on Tuesday, and it’s a chance they have no intention of passing up.
“To win a trophy for this club would be huge,” said Farrell. “We’ve worked hard – everybody from the 25th guy to the first guy, and all the coaching staff – we’ve worked hard to get in this position, to be in a final.
“We’re really excited to be a part of it and hopefully we’ll take that trophy home with us.”