FOXBOROUGH — Chris Tierney can go no further.
The Wellesley native and longest-tenured player on the Revolution has called time on his 11-year career, announcing his retirement in front of his squadmates during a press conference at Gillette Stadium Thursday afternoon.
With his family sitting alongside of him and with Revolution investor/operator Robert Kraft and team president Brian Bilello standing nearby, Tierney said good bye to the game — and club — he loves.
“As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now,” Tierney said in a six-minute speech, “I’m here to announce my retirement after 11 seasons, living my dream and playing for the New England Revolution.
“(Playing for the Revs), it has meant that every opportunity to wear this shirt and represent this club, I did so with the same feelings of local connection and pride that I felt sitting wide-eyed in the stands at the old Foxborough Stadium. Looking back over my time here, my hope is that I was able to inspire a few of the next generation of soccer-loving New Englanders to chase their dreams the same way that I did.”
Tierney said that he had been thinking about retirement “for a long time.”
“I didn’t make a definite decision until probably a few months ago,” he said. “I had to see how the knee rehabbed, but there are other issues with my hip; it was always an issue for me, and still is.”
He added that manager Brad Friedel was behind his decision.
“Brad’s fully supportive of me, has been since the injury,” he said. “He’s been spectacular with me since he came in. He was fully respectful; he thanked me for my service, and he told me when I was injured that the door’s always open to come back, that I had a spot in preseason to prove if I wanted to play. I really appreciate that from him.”
Set to become a free agent after this season, Tierney’s retirement comes after a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered back in May. Nearing the end of the first half of New England’s 1-1 draw with Atlanta United FC on May 30, Tierney had gone up for a 50-50 ball with an Atlanta player and landed awkwardly on the Gillette turf.
Two days later, he was diagnosed with the ACL tear in his right knee. He had surgery at Mass. General Hospital in Boston on June 28.
On Aug. 1, Tierney stood on the touchline of the training pitch.
“The first little while post-surgery was a little tough but it’s starting to feel better,” Tierney told BostonSportsJournal.com that morning. “It’s just a grind, you know? It’s a whole different schedule for me on a daily basis now, which is an adjustment. It’s going to be a long road, but a lot of good challenges to look forward to.
“(Playing again is) the ultimate goal, but I’ve set shorter term goals to keep me going … if I start thinking too much about the big picture, it gets a little daunting.”
Since then, Tierney noted that multiple injuries over the course of his career “kinda started to pile up on me.”
“They say when you know, you know, and I knew,” he said. “I knew. I didn’t want to come back and not be able to play at a level that I thought was deserving of the career I’ve had so far. It’s really the only decision I’ve had considering the injuries. It was just the right time.”
After playing at the University of Virginia, the Revolution and then-manager Steve Nicol drafted Tierney — who turns 33 in January 2019 — with the 13th overall pick in the 2008 MLS Supplemental Draft. With his hometown club, Tierney went on to make 246 appearances (220 starts) in MLS with the Revs, scoring 13 goals out of his left back slot, the last one coming in memorable fashion in front of the home fans.
With their 2018 home opener against Colorado Rapids looking to end level, 1-1, newcomer Wilfried Zahibo had gone to ground at the top of the 18-yard box, setting up a free kick 19 yards away.
And with Diego Fagundez and Tierney standing over it, Tierney felt peckish. The lefty drove the ball off the body of a Rapids player leaping in the wall, and it had enough power and pace to get by former U.S. International goalkeeper Tim Howard for the match winner.
“Once that free kick came up,” Fagundez explained after that Mar. 10 match, “we both looked at the ball. I really wanted it and I told him, ‘I want it, I want to take it.’ I usually shoot those in training all the time, but once I saw Tim Howard and where he was set up, I told (Tierney) to take it. He was set up, he was confident, and sometimes you have to give someone who’s confident like that a chance to score.
“He definitely did the right thing.”
Fagundez noted Howard was positioned right in the center instead of shading toward his left side.
“I was ready to across him,” he said. “Once he took the step back close to his post, I knew Chris needed to take it.”
Said Tierney that day: “It was on my side; it was angled for a left-footer, and I just figured that it was the last kick of the game, I’m going to put it on-target. I’m not putting this thing over, and I’m going to make (Howard) make a save.”
Among Tierney’s career highlights includes the 79th-minute goal which sent the 2014 MLS Cup Final to extra time; the assist on a Juan Agudelo bicycle kick goal against Chicago in 2013; as well as burying a penalty against former teammate Bobby Shuttlesworth, now with Minnesota United, in 2017; scoring a goal in the penalty shoot-out in New England’s win to claim the North American Superliga, the club’s last trophy win in 2008.
A one-time MLS All-Star, Tierney developed a reputation with Revolution supporters as being a rather stalwart defender with pinpoint accurate crossing ability from the flanks; he captured the local media’s Defender of the Year voting in 2016, as well as the Midnight Riders’ Man of the Year that season. His 11 seasons with the club is a record for outfield players, tying him for first all-time with former goalkeeper Matt Reis; it also ranked him in the Top 10 for all Boston sports among active athletes — Tom Brady, Dustin Pedroia, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron being the remaining active players — for years of service.
He retires tied for fourth all-time in the club for assists (40), third for games played, fourth for games started, and fourth for minutes played (19,422). He made seven appearances in the postseason for the Revolution, scoring two goals in addition to the 13 he scored in the regular season.
Prior to his time at Virginia, where he won the 2004 ACC Championship as a freshman as well as an appearance in the College Cup semifinals in 2006, Tierney attended Dedham’s Noble and Greenough School in the ISL, where he lettered four times as a midfielder, and was an All-ISL choice in 2003 and 2004.
In addition, he played his club football with FC Greater Boston Bolts from 1996-2004.