FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In most leagues around the world a 440-mile roundtrip journey would be – by some distance – the farthest a team would travel for an away match all season.
In MLS, it’s a local derby.
Saturday night’s meeting between the New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls will have that feel, in large part because the Revs will have a significant section of traveling support at Red Bull Arena. Approximately 500 fans will make the trek down I-95 on Saturday morning on busses provided by the Revolution, who are also providing tickets to the match, a perk of being a Revolution Season Member.
These away trips aren’t just a memorable experience for the supporters – they’re also a massive boost for the players, who feed off the energy and noise from the away section, knowing that they’ll have hundreds of voices behind them at the match’s critical moments.
“It’s huge,” said Jalil Anibaba. “Any time you look up to the stands and you see your home fans there in an away stadium, that’s massive. That’s massive. They’ll give us energy in the tough moments of the game, and we’ll look to piggyback off that.”
Michael Mancienne, who prior to joining the Revolution last season had spent his entire career in Europe, is accustomed to having traveling support for most matches. That is, of course, because a trip from the northeast of England to the country’s southwest coast – the longest possible journey – is only 400 miles.
Still, Mancienne knows exactly what it can mean to a player in the late stages of a tight match away from home, looking into the stands to see and hear their own supporters willing them forward.
“It’s massive for the boys to see the fan support, and it gives us a boost on the pitch,” Mancienne said. “It motivates us, and we obviously want to win games for the fans, as well as ourselves, because they’re supporting us throughout the whole year. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”
Diego Fagundez has seen firsthand what traveling support can mean at Red Bull Arena, as he was part of the Revolution squad that claimed a 2-1 win in the first leg of the 2014 Eastern Conference Championship with almost 1,300 supporters cheering them on from Section 220 of RBA.
While the stakes won’t be quite as high on Saturday night, it’s nevertheless a critical match, as the Revs (9-9-7, 34 pts.) have the opportunity to pull even with the Red Bulls (11-10-4, 37 pts.) for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Fagundez is hoping that by the end of the evening, the away section will have plenty of reason to celebrate.
“Every time they go out there, we can hear them. We can hear their support,” said Fagundez. “To drive out there and support us down there, it’s huge. We’re going to try to make it special for them, and give it everything we have.”