Longtime New England Revolution left back Chris Tierney called time on a 10-year career — during which he represented his hometown club through highs, lows and everything in between — Thursday afternoon.
Tierney, who will turn 33 in January, announced his retirement during a formal press conference at Gillette Stadium with most of the current Revolution team, a few former players and members of the front office in attendance.
New England had a faithful steward in Tierney, a local product from Wellesley, Mass., who professed at least a half-dozen times throughout his career that he only wanted to represent the Revolution.
Tierney wore Revolution colors proudly and admirably. He finishes his career with the fourth-most games played in club history (240), fourth-most starts (217), fourth-most minutes played (19,114) and third-most assists (40).
He also took the most corner kicks in New England history (467) and scored 16 goals in all competitions, including the equalizer in the New England Revolution’s 2-1 extra-time loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2014 MLS Cup.
Tierney’s retirement was expected at the end of 2018, though there had been speculation about his future before then, too.
He tore his ACL on a non-contact injury during a 1-1 tie against Atlanta United May 30. He didn’t play for the rest of the season, and it was going to be tough for him to bounce back, particularly at his age and with Gillette Stadium’s artificial turf field.
Even so, the Revolution appeared to make plans for Tierney’s departure during the preseason. They acquired Swedish left back Gabriel Somi, who was the go-to player in the position at the start of the season, and drafted Brandon Bye, who took over once Somi fell out of favor and Tierney got hurt.
Despite spending most of 2018 on the injury list, longevity, versatility and commitment have all come to define Tierney’s time with the Revolution. He’s in the company of some of the club’s all-time greats. When it comes to playing time, he’s in the same league as Shalrie Joseph, Matt Reis, Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps and Taylor Twellman.
In many ways, Tierney was ahead of his time and a prelude to other local products, such as Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez and Isaac Angking, who have joined the Revolution first team as homegrown players.
Caldwell, Fagundez and Angking, as well as Zachary Herivaux, came out of the Revolution Academy, which did not exist when Tierney was in high school at Noble and Greenough School in at Dedham, Mass. He played youth soccer for the Boston Bolts, then-coached by former Revolution assistant and current color commentator Paul Mariner, before moving on to the University of Virginia.
New England signed Tierney out of Virginia with the 13th overall pick of the 2008 Supplemental Draft.
He made his first professional appearance off the bench in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake June 21, 2008 and made his Foxborough debut as a starter in a 1-0 Superliga victory over Pachuca July 14 that same season.
Tierney never professed to having much pace, but he did enjoy outsmarting his opponents and was known mostly for his terrific left foot, which accounted for a number of on-the-money crosses and perfectly-hit free kicks. Even in his debut, he showed glimpses of what was to come as he fearlessly went at Mexican defenders and fired accurate shots from long range.
It took a few years for opposing teams to start respecting Tierney, who was wide open on the left flank even in the six games he played this year. Opponents figured out his left foot was almost as dangerous as Brad Davis’ when the Revolution returned to the playoffs in 2013 and 2014. His goal in the 2014 MLS Cup sent a brief shiver around the league that it might have been New England’s year, finally.
In 2015, Bruce Arena, who coached the Galaxy against Tierney and the Revolution in the final, called Tierney to the MLS All-Star team to play Tottenham. However, an injury kept Tierney from making an appearance.
Tierney’s retirement now makes New England’s hole at left back official, though his salary, which the MLS Players Union lists at $165,833, gives the front office some extra cap space.
That said, the club has to sign a player to adequately fill the position this year. Bye and Somi appear to just be depth pieces on the left flank for 2019.
The Revolution have lost a veteran that spanned many of the club’s eras. With Diego Fagundez and Brad Knighton, Tierney was one the last players on the roster to have Steve Nicol as a coach. He was also the last outfield player to have played with Twellman and Ralston. Replacing him will take more than talent.