FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Mike Lapper’s plan to award a “man of the match” ball after each victory hit an immediate snag in his first game as interim head coach of the New England Revolution.
The Revs got their win, a comprehensive 3-1 triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes. That wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that Lapper had no idea who to name man of the match after his entire squad put forth an exemplary effort to finish a trying week with an emotional three points.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t know who to give it to,” Lapper said of the match ball. “Everyone put in an amazing shift. Carles (Gil) put in an amazing shift. Luis Caicedo. Teal Bunbury. Of course Juan Agudelo … Brandon Bye winning balls in the air. Matt Turner coming up with some amazing saves.
“Everyone played a part … I thought a lot of guys stepped up tonight, and that’s what we need to do.”
That’s what the Revs needed to do on Saturday night in particular, just two days after Brad Friedel was relieved of head coaching duties following a second consecutive five-goal loss. Confidence was at an all-time low midweek, but Thursday’s news was both a shock to the system and a message that a fresh start is on the horizon.
Lapper, taking over interim head coaching duties and with just one training session to get his players ready for Saturday night, met with “70 to 80 percent” of the players individually on Friday, challenging them to rediscover the joy they have for the game.
With a resolute defensive performance and some inspired attacking play, they did.
“I think the guys came out and wanted to enjoy playing,” said Andrew Farrell. “It’s been a long time. I love this game, and it’s hard when you’re losing games like we have been, but tonight was fun.”
“We fought until the end. We stayed together,” said Turner, who made five saves to pick up his first win in his second appearance of the year. “That was another thing that we wanted to make sure that we hadn’t done in the past two games, which was stick together through good times and bad times within the game, because games are really emotional.”
Saturday night’s win was particularly emotional, but both Lapper and his players are under no illusions about the task ahead. The Revs still sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, but with 21 games still on the schedule, they also know there’s plenty of time to turn things around in 2019.
To do so, they’ll need more performances like they got on Saturday night.
“It’s a building block,” said Turner. “It’s a foundation.”