BOSTON, Mass. – A fashion fail?
The explosion of red, white and blue thread sewn together as the New England Revolution’s inaugural home jersey certainly wasn’t one, according to ex-Revolution central defender Alexi Lalas, who wore the full kit in 1996.
Lalas got to reflect on that time during New York Fashion Week, when Major League Soccer’s 26 clubs debuted their 2020 season jerseys.
Things came full circle for Lalas as he walked the runway and modeled New England’s design – also known as “The Original” – which is sleek navy and features a thick streak of white across the front. The matching shorts are candy apple red, like the ones worn during the club’s first season.
The look is a clear throwback to what came first, which makes sense since MLS is celebrating its 25th season this year.
“Those 90s jerseys get a bad rap, but I had no problem with it,” Lalas told Pro Soccer USA in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I loved it because it was so beautifully American. It didn’t just scream ’90s, it screamed America.”
The patriotic color scheme continues to be a key part of the club’s identity, which aligns nicely with the New England region’s deep colonial roots and its place as the starting point of the American Revolutionary War in 1775.
But changes are afoot, both inside the club and on the field, as the Revolution embark on their next quarter-century in MLS.
New England’s new decade starts with Bruce Arena – arguably the most decorated tactician in American soccer history – at the helm for his first full season as the club’s head coach and sporting director.
The Revolution started preseason at a newly-opened, state of the art training facility in the woods behind Gillette Stadium.
With less than a month to go before the season opener in Montreal, the New England’s roster is nearly set and it filled all three of its allotted designated player slots. An affiliate club in USL League One is also set to start play in March.
These are uncharted waters for a club that has been known to be frugal and slow out of the gate for most of its existence.
And so the jersey Lalas helped unveil pays homage to the past though, ironically, the Revolution don’t seem too keen on repeating most of it.
Lalas, who played for the Revolution from 1996-97, is pleased to see his former club getting up to speed.
“The honest truth is the New England Revolution have not been relevant to MLS for a number of years,” Lalas said. “But, unlike other teams, I don’t think anybody has a better opportunity to become relevant faster than the Revolution.
“You look at the ownership, location, history …there’s potential. But the Revolution are 25 years in and I don’t want to talk about potential anymore. I want to talk about fulfilling that potential.”
Lalas, citing the club’s recent acquisitions and the newly-constructed training center, said the Revolution are on the right track under Arena.
He also repeated a few refrains familiar to anyone who has been around the club for an iota of time: that a soccer-specific stadium in Boston’s urban core would be a game-changer; that the Kraft family, which owns the Revolution, are capable of revitalizing the club; and that, if managed properly, the franchise could become an MLS super team and earn attention from across the world.
“I know at times fans have been critical and pessimistic and been cynical about speed that progress has been made, but I think there’s been progress, certainly in the last year, with the training center and Bruce coming in,” Lalas said. “I’m looking forward not just to how the Revs accelerate progress on the field, but also with the kingdom on the hill, if you will, of a stadium at some point. That would change everything.”
“Getting the stadium as close to Boston as possible will change the sports landscape,” Lalas continued. “The Revs will benefit, the city of Boston will benefit, and New England and MLS will benefit. The fact that Revs faithful have waited this long pains me, but I hope there’s a beautiful pot of gold with the New England Revolution crest on it at the end of the rainbow.”
Lalas is part of Fox’s soccer coverage team for the 2020 MLS season. The Revolution don’t have a nationally-televised game on the network this season. While Lalas did not directly address New England’s absence from Fox’s regular season lineup, he did say what his production team looks for from potential sites.
“We go to places and environments that are entertaining, good on TV, and a good product for MLS fans,” said Lalas, who also assists on the network’s international match coverage.
The Revolution averaged 18,347 spectators per game last season, which was 18th out of 24 MLS teams, according to Populous. Returning to the playoffs for the second consecutive season and challenging for a league title in 2020 might help. Lalas, for his part, believes the potential is there though talk of winning an MLS Cup might be premature.
“New England is ripe to become an MLS super club,” Lalas said. “The fact it hasn’t yet saddens and confuses me. If anyone deserves to win a cup, it’s the folks there.”