From the New England Revolution to the Boston Breakers, from international matches at Gillette Stadium to local corporate wheeling and dealing, a lot of Boston soccer history was made in 2011.
1. Kristine Lilly retiresLilly, 39, retired from the Boston Breakers and international soccer on January 5 and spoke with me about her decision to focus on her family just a few hours after the retirement announcement. This September, Lilly followed up on her plan by giving birth to her second daughter, Jordan Mary Heavey, who will likely continue the Lilly legend.
Lilly holds the world record with 352 international appearances and is the only woman in the world to have played in five FIFA World Cups. She scored 130 international goals and tallied 105 assists, second in both only to Mia Hamm. She represented the USA in three Olympic games and competed in U.S. women’s professional soccer from its birth to the present. Lilly is the youngest and oldest player to ever score a goal for the USA, yet in 2010, she outperformed all of her Boston Breakers teammates in fitness tests.
2. Shalrie Joseph arrested for trespassing and kicked out of preseason camp This fiasco set the tone for the rest of the Revolution’s season, where they completed 17th out of 18 teams. On February 20, at 3:30 a.m. at an Orlando hotel, Joseph and Kevin Alston were asked to return to their rooms while attending a loud party that disturbed other guests. Joseph and Alston remained in a stairwell and argued with hotel staff and Joseph was subsequently arrested. The pair were ejected from preseason camp and flown back to Boston and Joseph was later fined $1,000 by MLS.
It was Joseph’s second transgression of the preseason as he didn’t show up for the first day of practice. The previous April, Joseph was suspended for a month for testing positive for marijuana in a random MLS drug test. But somehow Joseph emerged unscathed from all this because he re-signed with the Revolution this fall and got bumped up to designated player status.
3. DiBenedetto completes buy of AS Roma in Boston On April 15, Boston businessman Thomas DiBenedetto assumed majority ownership of AS Roma in Boston, becoming the first-ever foreign owner of an Italian football club. The historic event sparked dozens of Italian press and paparazzi to descend on Boston. DiBenedetto plans to build a new stadium for the club and expand the Roma brand globally.
DiBenedetto, a partner in Fenway Sports Group, is also the president of Boston International Group, an investment management company. The investors’ group DiBenedetto AS Roma LLC also includes Michael Ruane, Richard D’Amore and Boston Celtics owner James Pallotta.
4. Benny Feilhaber lands in New England The Revolution claimed returning international Feilhaber’s allocation rights after Chivas USA and Philadelphia Union passed on him, likely because of his high salary. Feilhaber is the ideal thing to happen to the Revolution in years, though it’s possible the midfielder didn’t know what he was getting into when he signed with the Revs – at the time he stated he had only seen their game highlights. This season, Feilhaber made 23 appearances, scored four goals, added a team-high seven assists and was rewarded with a call-up to Jurgen Klinsmann’s January U.S. Men’s National Team camp.
5. Revolution finally get a jersey sponsor April 22, the Revolution and United Healthcare announced a partnership which included branding the jerseys with United Healthcare’s logo. Later in the off-season, the Revolution revealed a new jersey design.
6. New Balance/Warrior Sports partner with Boston Red Sox and BCL Premier SportsNew England athletic footwear giant New Balance aggressively re-launched into the soccer business rebranded as Warrior Sports and became a partner of the Boston Red Sox, who own Liverpool by way of Fenway Sports Group, formerly NESV. This April, Warrior beat out adidas to win the lucrative kit deal for the Liverpool uniform.
New Balance also became a strategic partner and investor in BCL Premier Sports facilities, owned by Mike Stoller, who separately is an owner of the Boston Breakers.
7. Spain demolish USA 4-0 at GilletteJune 4, 2010 World Cup Champion Spain’s B team demolished the USA 4-0 at Gillette Stadium, 5-0 had the first early goal correctly been called onside. The first half resembled sheep being herded by good-natured border collies. The USA only got off six shots, one on goal, while Spain launched 20, with eight on target.
A record crowd of 64,121, the largest-ever crowd for a U.S. Men’s National Team match in New England, turned out to witness the agonizing event.
Coach Bob Bradley’s apparent strategy was to sort second-string players for the upcoming Gold Cup without considering the stature of his opponent, the reputation of the USA or the 64,000 fans in attendance. To blow off a highly-promoted match-up with an opponent such as Spain is obviously unacceptable and contributed to Bradley’s imminent replacement by Jurgen Klinsmann.
8. Black Sunday: Revolution supporters groups stage walk-outJuly 17, Revolution supporters groups staged a mass walk-out, dubbed “Black Sunday,” during a Philadelphia-New England match to protest the June 18th incident involving stadium security’s treatment of fans. Several dozen protesters stationed in the Fort wore black shirts and departed en masse in the 16th minute, but the TV cameras carefully and rather unethically avoided showing the protest or their peaceful departure.
9. Revolution sign first-ever designated player August 2, the Revolution signed their first-ever designated player, Argentine forward Milton Caraglio, formerly of Rosario Central. In 12 starts, Caraglio, 22, scored three goals and added two assists. Curiously, in September the MLS Players Union only listed his salary at $52,000, extremely low for a DP.
10. Tony DiCicco leaves Boston Breakers, Lisa Cole named head coachAfter coaching the Boston Breakers since their WPS debut in 2009, in September, head coach Tony DiCicco left to spend more time with his family and turned the reins over to his assistant Lisa Cole. The Breakers reached the playoffs in 2010 and 2011 and often led WPS in attendance.
DiCicco won 1999 Womens’ World Cup and the 1996 Olympic gold medal for the USA, and led the U.S. U-20s to win 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. DiCicco is the all-time wins leader in the U.S. National Soccer Team history with a record of 103-8-8. Early in his career, DiCicco was a goalkeeper in LASA and the American Soccer Leagues and coached the USMNT U-20 program in 1993. He also runs his own SoccerPlus camps and clubs and works as a commentator for ESPN, most recently at World Cup Germany.
Cole has been DiCicco’s assistant coach since 2009 and formerly worked for him as president and assistant coach of SoccerPlus Connecticut Reds of the WPSL. Prior to the that, she was assistant coach at Florida State, head coach at University of Rhode Island and assistant coach at the University of Connecticut. Cole holds a USSF “A” license and NSCAA Premier Diploma and is an NSCAA staff coach and a member of the Region I Olympic Development Program (ODP) staff.
11. Shake-up at the Revolution October 24, after three increasingly grim seasons, head coach Steve Nicol was removed after ten seasons at the helm of the Revolution, the longest tenured coach at a single club in MLS history. Nicol took New England to MLS Cup four times: 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He also led the team to their first-ever cup championship, the 2007 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as well as the SuperLiga 2008 crown, becoming the only MLS team to ever win the tournament.
November 9, Chief Operating Officer Brian Bilello was promoted to franchise president and vice-president player personnel Mike Burns promoted to General Manager. Former president Sunil Gulati will remain a special advisor to The Kraft Group and the Kraft Family.
November 15, Comcast Sportsnet color analyst and former defender Jay Heaps, 35, was appointed new head coach. At his retirement, Heaps was the Revolution’s all-time leader in games played (243), starts (238), and minutes played (21,619). He scored nine goals and 26 assists over his career with New England and is one of three players that started in all four of the Revolution’s MLS Cup appearances. Heaps was also a member of the squads that won the 2007 U.S. Open Cup and the 2008 SuperLiga and was the team’s union representative.
12. Three new PDL teams arrive in New England for 2012
In December, not one, not two, but three new USL PDL teams announced their arrival in New England where they’ll compete with five other PDL teams in the Northeast Division. The three new teams, Worcester Hydra FC, Boston Victory SC and Connecticut FC Azul, will join MPS Portland Phoenix, New Hampshire Phantoms, Vermont Voltage, the Western Mass Pioneers and Ottowa Fury. The teams will play 16 games between May and August and are comprised mostly of NCAA college-eligible players. Both Boston Victory and Worcester Hydra have plans to advance to third division USL PRO and Worcester Hydra has MISL and MLS aspirations.
Note: A very happy and successful New Year to all my readers!
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