FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Chris Tierney made his New England Revolution debut on June 21, 2008, on a sweltering 97-degree night in Salt Lake City, Utah. He’d officially signed his first professional contract just three weeks prior, beating the odds and winning a roster spot as a Supplemental Draft pick.
Tierney was a 77th-minute substitute that evening at Rice-Eccles Stadium, replacing Sainey Nyassi as the Revs pushed for a late equalizer in what was ultimately a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. In many respects it was a typical MLS debut, no different than the countless others to come before or after.
But of course, this debut was different. It was the first of 271 appearances that Tierney would make during the course of an illustrious 11-year career with his hometown team, making him the longest-tenured field player in club history when he officially announced his retirement on Thursday afternoon.
Not bad for a kid from Wellesley, Mass., who grew up dreaming of playing for his beloved Revs.
“I never thought I would play one minute for the Revolution,” Tierney said as he stood on a stage in the bowels of Gillette Stadium, reflecting on a career that spanned more than a decade. “I remember the feeling when I stepped on the field that first time. I just said, ‘Wow, this is it. I’ve made it. My goals are accomplished. This is everything I ever dreamed of.’
“To think that I’d continue to play for 11 seasons more, it really is just a dream come true, and I’m so lucky and proud to have done that here.”
The first of Tierney’s 44 career assists came two months after that debut in a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC, and it was delivered in a style that became his trademark – an inch-perfect, left-footed cross that was finished off by Taylor Twellman at the back post.
Twellman became something of a mentor to Tierney, and the two formed a bond that will last long after both have kicked a ball for the final time. Similar relationships developed with Matt Reis, Bobby Shuttleworth, Kelyn Rowe and countless others who’ve come and gone through New England.
It’s those friendships that Tierney will cherish the most as he transitions into the next phase of his life, and it’s those private moments that provided his favorite memories from the past 11 years.
“It’s those moments you spend with your teammates after wins, on the road, all the locker room banter,” Tierney said. “That’s really the stuff you miss the most.
“Soccer’s a great game. It’s a world game, so you have people from different countries and backgrounds, and when you have everyone working towards a common goal, it just makes things that much tighter.
“I’ve had many lifelong friends made here that I’ll continue to be in touch with and be great friends with, so that’s the most special part of this whole deal.”
In terms of his favorite on-field moments, Tierney pointed to the second leg of the 2014 Eastern Conference Championship, when he assisted on a late Charlie Davies goal to seal the conference title and book a spot in MLS Cup.
That goal started with Scott Caldwell (Braintree, Mass.), went through Tierney (Wellesley, Mass.,), and finished with Davies (Manchester, N.H.). It was a trophy-winning goal that was truly made in New England.
“That was something I’ll definitely remember forever,” Tierney said.
Tierney scored a late equalizer in that MLS Cup, using a sublime first touch to skip around a defender before finishing low to the far post with – you guessed it – his left foot. He retires as one of just two players – along with Twellman – to have scored for the Revs in an MLS Cup final.
But that’s a game that Tierney said he’s all but wiped from his memory considering the heartbreaking way it ended in extra time, and he admits – like Twellman, and like Reis, and like Jay Heaps – that his biggest regret will be not lifting that trophy with his childhood club. That’s the one that got away.
The regrets, though, are few and far between. For the past 11 years, Tierney woke up each morning and continued to live a dream. Although he has closed the book on his playing days, the memories made will last a lifetime, and they’re powerful enough that the dream never truly has to end.
“I still feel like I’m in a dream,” Tierney said. “This is the club that I grew up watching on TV and coming to the games. Kicking a ball around in my backyard, I was always pretending like I was a Revolution player. To actually do that for 11 seasons, it really is a dream come true.
“It’s a club that I love and always will, and I just feel so lucky to have been a part of it.”