“Feeling that support felt amazing” | Revs Unified Team celebrates 10 years of inclusion and belonging

5_8_24 Unified Team signing full group

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.Sofia Teixeira may not be a name immediately recognizable to many New England Revolution fans. But, in fact, she just put pen to paper for her second season with the club, and she’s just as ready to take on New York this weekend as any member of the first team.

Teixeira, a native of Hyannis, Mass., was at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, May 7, along with 18 other young men and women from around the Bay State as a part of Signing Day for the 2024 New England Revolution Unified Team, which brings together Special Olympians and Unified Sports partner athletes to play together in an inclusive, supportive environment against similar teams associated with other MLS clubs. The first of their two matches this season will be on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls Unified Team, just ahead of kickoff for the corresponding MLS fixture, while the other game will be played at home after the Revs’ July 20 showdown with FC Dallas.

For her part, Teixeira is thrilled to be back with the team after a great experience last year.

“Coming back here for a second year felt amazing,” the Special Olympian said. “Coming back to my teammates from last year and having friendships that will last forever has been the most loving memory that I’ll ever have.”

Team members and their families were greeted with the full Revolution treatment for Signing Day, with an event that included remarks from New England Revolution Foundation President Josh Kraft and a motivational team speech from head coach Caleb Porter. Mary Beth McMahon, President and CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts, was also in attendance and could not have been happier with how the Signing Day event and the Unified Team have grown over the last 10 years.

“I’m not sure where those 10 years went, but I think it’s amazing,” she said. “We were just saying, today’s signing event is just so much bigger than the first one we did … I think the backing of Arbella [Insurance] has just helped extensively across the board. It’s nice when people recognize the partnership from the brands that we use, and that, I think, is really what the key is to all of this. And I think the other key is we get a lot of people who want to try out. Before we were putting composite teams together and trying to figure it out, where now we have tryouts coming in, so the experience from the athlete standpoint, as an athlete on the New England Revolution Unified Team, is just so much greater because of the beginning to end process.”

McMahon also lifted up players like Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, and Tommy McNamara, who were also present for Signing Day to meet the new and returning players, for how much their involvement in the event helps lift up the team and the initiative.

“When an athlete on the Revolution number-one team looks at our athletes as equal partners, it’s really what we’re trying to get across in our message: Play Unified, Live Unified,” McMahon said. “What Andrew has brought to everyone over the last 10 years of this relationship is friendship, advice, mentorship, just someone who really believes in them and their abilities, and doesn’t see the disabilities. When he personifies that and then brings other players like Ryan (Spaulding), and Henry, and Tommy Mac along with him, it just allows us to substantiate what we’re doing so much more.”

5_8_24 Unified Team signing Farrell and Kessler

Farrell, who has stayed closely involved with the New England Revolution Unified Team ever since it was started 10 years ago, said he was just happy to be able to be a part of such a meaningful event.

“It was obviously a special day, signing day,” he said. “You get that contract, you get excited about that, get to talk to coach, and now it’s get ready for work. They have a game on Saturday, so we’re excited for that, and it’s also cool to see some members coming back -- we have some people who’ve been on the team for two years, couple sophomores, and a couple new players, new faces, so we’ll see how they integrate with the team. But yeah, again, this is such a special event that we’ve done for a while, and just excited to be a part of it and support as much as we can, and obviously excited for the game on the weekend.”

Farrell went on to talk about how great it has been to have had a front-row seat to the growth of the Unified Team over the last decade.

“You can look back at so many memories over the last 10 years and how many more fans stay after the game to watch the games,” he said, “how many guys stay after our games to support even when it’s pouring down rain. And it’s also, I feel like over the years it’s gotten a little more and more competitive, and a little bit more chippy, which is fun to see the competitiveness.”

Kessler agreed that Signing Day was an incredible event to be involved with, and said he considered the members of the Unified Team to be Revs just like any of the others.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “We always welcome new members of the team. We love this event, it’s an amazing event. So inspiring when people sign, and it’s a great event to come out and support and we’re looking forward to seeing what the new members of the team contribute.”

Teixeira said that having members of the first team so closely involved with the Unified Team has provided her with an incredible boost.

“Feeling that support from Andrew Farrell felt amazing” she said. “I will always have that memory forever, and he’s always had my back through years of playing. Watching him out on the field during his games has given me the most confidence I’ve ever had.”

5_8_24 Unified Team signing jerseys

Liam Wise of Boxford and Billy Scanlon of Chestnut Hill, Special Olympic athletes like Teixeira, agreed that being a part of the Unified Team was exciting and a great opportunity to build friendships.

“It was pretty amazing seeing teammates from last year and now making new friends, and seeing Andrew Farrell,” Wise said. “We’re going to have fun … We’re going to bring the dub back to Gillette.”

Alyson Green of Hopkinton was present as one of the Unified Team’s partner athletes, players without intellectual disabilities who compete alongside the Special Olympics athletes. She said that she was just as excited to be a part of the team as any of her teammates.

“This is so cool,” she said. “I can’t believe that I’m here. This is such a cool experience.”

As Farrell mentioned, the inclusive nature of the program certainly does not stop the players from having a healthy competitiveness on the field, and the whole team will be hoping for a big win against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. Kessler also said during the event that he was looking forward to two weekend wins from the team.

“The double, that’s what we’re looking to do,” he said. “Two ‘W’s would be huge. A six-point weekend would be amazing, so that’s what we’re hoping to do.”