We’ve spent plenty of time in recent weeks thinking about the 2015 season; it’s the natural order of things every time another year comes to an end. We all get a little reflective.
Naturally, there’s disappointment that the New England Revolution’s postseason run ended far too soon. That dominates the thought process. But it doesn’t change the fact that the club and its supporters shared some pretty memorable moments in 2015, both on and off the field.
In this particular Top 10 countdown, we’re recapping some of the best memories from this past year that happened outside the realm of first-team matches, from fan-made pennants to touching tifo displays.
No. 10: “Forget about the curveball, Jermaine. Give him the heater.”
Jermaine Jones throws out the first pitch at Fenway Park
Accuracy or power? It’s a decision Jermaine Jones has made countless times on the soccer field, but in late April he found himself asking that question while standing on the mound at historic Fenway Park.
Invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Boston Red Sox game on April 28, Jones – admittedly a baseball novice having grown up in Germany – could’ve sacrificed a bit of speed to guarantee his toss found the plate to avoid any potential embarrassment.
But that’s not Jermaine Jones.
The powerful midfielder wound up and fired a bullet to Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig, and although it wasn’t a perfect strike, the pitch found Craig’s glove and not the backstop. Consider that a win.
No. 9: Prairie + Paint = Pennants
12-year season ticket holder Prairie Rose Clayton hand-makes Revs’ match-day pennants
The pregame pennant exchange typically goes down with little fanfare. As the club captains meet at midfield for the coin toss, they offer each other a small generic banner to mark the occasion.
But resident artist and longtime season ticket holder Prairie Rose Clayton doesn’t do generic.
After approaching the Revolution about designing the pennants herself, Prairie went about the arduous task of hand-making unique pennants for each of New England’s 17 home games in 2015. Her designs incorporated Revolution players past and present, as well as New England culture and history.
Not only did Prairie’s designs give the Revolution’s once-bland pennants a distinct New England flavor, her efforts highlighted the exceptional bond between supporters and their clubs.
No. 8: Fired up by Fist Bump Kid
Liam Fitzgerald, a.k.a. “Fist Bump Kid,” inspires Revs ahead of May 2 win over RBNY
Liam Fitzgerald, the 9-year-old leukemia survivor who became an overnight sensation when video of him fist-bumping the entire Boston Bruins lineup surfaced on the internet, was a special guest of the Revolution for their May 2 meeting with the rival New York Red Bulls.
After watching pregame warmups from the field, Liam stood by the players’ tunnel and gave his signature fist bump to every player. He was even given Brad Knighton’s goalkeeper gloves for extra padding.
The fist bumps clearly did the trick as far as motivation – the Revs won the match, 2-1, downing the previously unbeaten Red Bulls, and Liam took a victory lap around the field with Kelyn Rowe.
No. 7: Kelyn kicks cancer with the help of his NEGU Crew
Charitable Foundation launches “Kelyn’s NEGU Crew” to benefit young cancer patients
Inspired in part by Liam Fitzgerald’s visit and their postgame victory lap, Kelyn Rowe spearheaded a new charitable initiative that launched in late May called “Kelyn’s NEGU Crew.”
NEGU = Never Ever Give Up, a phrase adopted by the Jessie Rees Foundation to benefit childhood cancer. As part of Kelyn’s NEGU Crew, young cancer patients were invited to Revolution games as Kelyn’s special guest, culminating with a postgame lap around the field like the one he took with Liam.
“I want to share with them the same excitement the game brings to me,” Rowe said. “That’s why I love taking the kids around the field after the game to thank the fans. It gives them a chance to fully experience the joy and support the fans can give you.”
Rowe, a fixture when the Revs make their monthly visits to Boston Children’s Hospital, was honored as the Revolution’s Humanitarian of the Year for the second straight year in 2015.
No. 6: We love New England, we do
A record crowd of 42,947 packs Gillette Stadium for the regular-season finale vs. Montreal
The dedication of New England Revolution fans can never be questioned, but their support hit new heights on October 17 when a record crowd of 42,947 filtered into Gillette Stadium for the regular-season home finale against the Montreal Impact.
That figure easily eclipsed the previous mark of 39,256 – set back in 2008 when David Beckham and the LA Galaxy visited Foxborough – and brought the club’s average home attendance for 2015 up to 19,627, representing a 17.7 percent increase over the previous year.
Unfortunately it was the last game the Revs hosted at Gillette Stadium in 2015 as the club was eliminated in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, but the record-setting support left everyone hungry for the first home game of the 2016 campaign.
We’ll see you there.
No. 5: Six states, one team … and one fan-inspired kit
Revs unveil unique secondary kit inspired by the Flag of New England
Revolution supporters have proudly flown the Flag of New England since the club’s inaugural campaign back in 1996, but the flag’s significance to the club reached a new level in the Revs’ 20th season.
Unveiled as part of a special event at House of Blues Boston in early March, the Revolution debuted a brand new secondary kit entirely inspired by the Flag of New England. With a red base, white blocks and green accents, the kit is a literal representation of the flag and embraces the region’s heritage.
Although the flag also features on the back of New England’s primary blue jerseys, never before had a Revolution kit tapped so deeply into the region’s roots, and never before had the club’s uniforms served as such a direct link between the players on the field and the supporters in the stands.
No. 4: Rolling strikes and raising money
Revs’ inaugural Bowl For A Goal event raises $61,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts
Bowling for fun is … well, fun. But bowling for a cause? There’s nothing better.
That’s exactly what the Revolution did back in mid-July, hosting the inaugural Bowl For A Goal presented by Arbella Insurance at Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Patriot Place.
The event included raffle prizes and a silent auction, but the highlight of the evening was no doubt the bowling, which featured integrated teams of Revolution players and coaches with athletes from Special Olympics Massachusetts. It was all in good fun, but there may have been a bit of healthy competition.
Of course everyone can be considered a winner when $61,000 is raised for an organization like Special Olympics Massachusetts, and the success of the inaugural event led Revolution president Brian Bilello to predict that Bowl For A Goal will become an annual tradition in Foxborough.
No. 3: A special night for some Special Olympians
Gillette Stadium hosts a Special Olympics Unified match between Revs and NYCFC
One of the most memorable New England Revolution matches of 2015 didn’t involve the first team.
On the evening of July 18, Gillette Stadium hosted a Special Olympics Unified match between Special Olympics Massachusetts (representing the Revolution) and Special Olympics New York City (representing New York City FC) as part of a doubleheader with the first-team game.
The match was given the full stadium treatment, including a pregame walkout, national anthem and a raucous Fort singing and chanting for both sides throughout the contest.
The Special Olympians even had a celebrity coach as Andrew Farrell – unprompted – stuck around after going 90 minutes in a win over NYCFC to offer words of encouragement to the athletes.
Combined with Bowl For A Goal, which raised $61,000 for Special Olympics Massachusetts three days prior, it was an exceptional week for some exceptional athletes.
No. 2: Jermaine Jones and the touching tifo display
Supporters raise memorable banner featuring a portion painted by childhood cancer patients
New England Revolution supporters have upped their tifo game immeasurably these past two years, but they hit the pinnacle with their Jermaine Jones and the Revs Crusade design on September 26.
The concept was perfectly executed, recreating the iconic scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark … but with a Revolution twist, as Jermaine is poised to snatch MLS Cup from its perch and replace the trophy with a weighted bag of sand.
But what made this particular tifo display so special was its connection to Childhood Cancer Awareness month. And it’s not just that the base color was gold (a nod to Childhood Cancer Awareness month) or that the banner was raised on Childhood Cancer Awareness Night at Gillette Stadium. It was much more.
Clearly visible at the bottom (center) of the display, a small portion of the banner was actually designed and painted by childhood cancer patients – with the help of some Revs players – during a visit to Boston Children’s Hospital, giving this particular tifo display a heavy dose of love.
No. 1: Go Artie Go
Longtime supporter Artie Melville rises out of his wheelchair to stand with Revs for team photo
If you’ve ever sang in The Fort or been to a tailgate, you probably know Artie Melville.
Artie is part of the Revolution family – one of the club’s biggest supporters – so when he suffered a workplace injury back in early June that left him with a fractured vertebrae and limited feeling in his legs, the news hit the organization and Artie’s fellow supporters hard.
But spurred on by his positively infectious optimism, Artie’s friends and family rallied in support as he began the long road to recovery. Little by little, Artie made improvements – first he could feel pin pricks on his legs, and then he could move his big toe. Soon, he started to regain movement in his legs.
It wasn’t long before Artie returned to Gillette Stadium to support his beloved Revs, and he even made the trip to Montreal for the September 19 meeting with the Impact. He was still limited to his wheelchair, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from singing loud and proud at home and on the road.
What happened on October 17, then, should come as no surprise. Invited onto the field to join the Revolution for their pregame picture, Artie rose out of his wheelchair and stood with the players, only slightly supported by Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez. He then joined the Revs in their team huddle.
The Revolution’s opponent that night, the Impact, lined up for their team photo with just 10 players so that Artie could join the Revs and make it an even 22. The soccer community knows no borders.
Artie’s road to recovery is far from over, and his Revolution family will continue to be there with him throughout the journey. But the steps he took that night at Gillette Stadium – literally – were no doubt the most memorable “off-the-field” moment for this club in 2015.