New England Revolution left back Chris Tierney was non-committal about his playing future at the end of last season but now says there was little doubt he would be back in 2018.
The 32-year-old defender is gearing up for his 11th season in Major League Soccer and continues to believe he can contribute both on and off the field.
“I’m still a capable player and a value added to this league,” said Tierney from Tucson, Ariz., where the Revolution conducted preseason camp. “I just want to work hard and prove that I belong.”
As an MLS veteran, Tierney witnessed the scenery change around him – the Saguaro cacti outside the Revolution’s Arizona hotel notwithstanding.
Brad Friedel is now head coach, New England’s seventh in the club’s 23-year history and the third in Tierney’s more than decade-long tenure with the organization. Friedel hired his own assistants, replacing most of last year’s staff, and added head of fitness Anton McElhone, formerly of Tottenham.
The Friedel regime has introduced the Revolution to a new approach to conditioning, tactics and game preparation. It’s also raised the stakes and the level of competition on the team.
New England signed eight new players during the offseason, five of which are either defenders or capable of playing on the back line. One of the Revolution’s new faces is Gabriel Somi, a speedy Syrian-Swede who is seven years Tierney’s junior and came to New England via free transfer after spending the last two years with Swedish side Östersunds FK.
Tierney knows he can’t take anything for granted and that Somi is now his direct competition for playing time at left back. That’s a stark change from last year, when the Revolution tried with little success to use attacking midfielder Kelyn Rowe and plodding fullback Donnie Smith as back-up support on the left flank.
Simply put: Tierney is no longer the only true option at his position.
“I think, overall, competition helps us to be successful,” Tierney said. “I think you’re going to see competition for spots all over the field this year. You look at the teams that do well and they’re at least two deep in every position.”
“Obviously he’s very experienced having played in a good league in Sweden,” Tierney added of Somi. “He’s quick, good with the ball. You can see his quality.”
The Revolution have been mired by poor form, lapses and inconsistency on the back line since 2015, when they last made the playoffs. Last season, they conceded 53 goals – the most in the Eastern Conference and the third-most in the league. That figure was only a hair better than what they allowed in 2016, which was 54 goals.
“We need to concede far fewer goals this season, that’s something that Brad has impressed on us since he started and I’m happy we’re going in knowing that it’s just not acceptable to be giving up so many,” added Tierney, whose team opens the season at Philadelphia on Saturday. “There’s been a focus on fitness since day one. I think you’ll see a different team this year, one that’s very difficult to play against.”