FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Following his first career coaching victory, it was evident that first-year head coach Jay Heaps invested a significant amount of emotion and energy during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Portland.
“I’m a little bit hoarse,” Heaps said following his first MLS coaching victory. “Because I think I played the game a little bit on the sideline.”
That statement shouldn’t come as a complete shock to those who followed Heaps during his playing days. Over his 11-year MLS career, Heaps’ fiery personality became his personal trademark. Whether it was jarring a ball loose near the net or pushing up to spark the attack, the speedy wingback left it all on the field after 90 minutes.
And while he might have traded his game jersey for a suit and tie, it was still the same Jay Heaps whom Revolution fans had come to known over the years. Passionate and intense as ever, especially after Saer Sene slotted home the decider only 28 seconds into the proceedings.
Normally, an early goal can allow a false sense of security to creep in. But Heaps wasn’t about to relax or take it easy with the advantage. He couldn’t. In less than a minute, his team went from hunter to the hunted against one of the toughest attacks in the league.
“When you get a goal like that, it releases stress,” Heaps said. “But then the game becomes hard because then they’re coming after you.”
And that’s exactly what Portland did. Facing the Revolution’s makeshift back four, the Timbers quickly put the opening goal behind them and began plotting the equalizer.
Kris Boyd exploited the space inside the defense and found a pair of tantalizing looks on frame. But his finishing was off all night, as the Timbers were often left to tread back up field empty handed.
Although the Revolution averted danger in the first half thanks to near-misses from Portland striker Kris Boyd, the Revolution knew that their opponent would continue to claw in the second frame.
“We knew they were going to throw everything they had at us,” Revolution left back Chris Tierney said. “(But) there’s times where you just have to be scrappy and bunker in and just try to hold on.”
Even though New England may have put the focus on the stopping Portland cold in its tracks, the Timbers found their fair share of chances in the second frame.
It was the closest the Timbers came to leveling it. Even though the Revolution may not have played stout defense or created a bevy of attacking chances to widen the gap, the Revolution did just enough to preserve the victory and send the crowd home happy.
But the 12,925 fans that attended the game weren’t the only ones with smiles on their faces. After the game, Tierney was even happier to get the win for Heaps, his former teammate.
“We wanted to get this first win for Jay, that’s for sure,” Tierney said. “He’s brought in such a refreshing attitude in this locker room. This one is definitely for him. We’re behind him as a team and we really like the changes that he’s made so it’s great for him to get his first win.”
Even with his first coaching win on the resume, Heaps didn’t dwell on his own accomplishments. Rather, he gave his players all the credit for never quitting, even though they may have been outmatched for much of the match.
“Personally, it is gratifying,” Heaps said. “But it’s more (gratifying) seeing the looks on the guys’ faces. I think we’ve worked hard to get here. And tonight, I think it showed.”
As he exited the press room, it was clear that the first-year head coach had left it all out on the bench.
On Saturday, Jay Heaps coached the way he played: with every ounce of energy he had.