Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2014
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps, among the longest-service members of the organization, has been fired, according to multiple sources.
The Revolution made the move after the team returned from a two-game road trip, sustaining its worst defeat ever, 7-0, at Atlanta United on Wednesday and falling, 3-1, to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
The team had pulled within a point of the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth with a 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Sept. 9, but has fallen 7 points off the pace with five matches remaining.
Heaps, who had no head coaching experience when he was hired in 2011, guided the Revolution to three successive postseason appearances and a berth in the 2014 MLS Cup. Last season, the Revolution reached the US Open Cup final and finished out of playoff contention on goal differential.
When Heaps retired, he was the team’s all-time leader with 294 games in all competitions over nine seasons, playing mostly at right back. Heaps started for the Revolution as they won the 2007 US Open Cup and in the 2001 US Open Cup final and MLS Cup finals in 2002, ’05, ’06, and ’07.
Heaps grew up in Longmeadow, Mass., turning down an offer from Boston College to enroll at Duke University. Heaps played for NCAA Final Four teams in basketball and soccer at Duke University, then was named MLS Rookie of the Year for the Miami Fusion in 1999, joining the Revolution in a trade in 2001.
During his playing career, Heaps acted as the Revolution player representative and during the offseason took finance courses. After retiring, Heaps spent two seasons as color commentator on Revolution television broadcasts while working in Morgan Stanley’s private wealth division in Manhattan.
Heaps was 35 years old, one of MLS’s youngest coaches ever, when he was named to replace Steve Nicol on Nov. 14, 2011.
The Revolution had a 9-17-8 (35 points) record in Heaps’s first season, then returned to the playoffs in 2013, for the first time since 2009. The late-season addition of Jermaine Jones helped spark the Revolution to a playoff run before the team fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, in overtime in the 2014 MLS Cup, their fifth loss in the final.
But the team did not capitalize on the momentum, failing to add significantly to its roster as Jones was slowed by injuries in 2015.
Heaps was the sixth coach in the team’s 22-year history and the fourth to be dismissed during the season, following Thomas Rongen (1998), Walter Zenga (1999), and Fernando Clavijo (2002).
The Revolution franchise started slowly, winning only one playoff game in its first six seasons, then finding success under Nicol, who had been hired as interim coach early in the 2002 season. The Revolution qualified for the playoffs seven successive seasons, advancing to the conference final from 2002-07. Heaps played a strong role on the back line, the team featuring dynamic offensive players such as Clint Dempsey and Taylor Twellman, plus Shalrie Joseph.
But the Revolution faltered as key players departed due to contract disputes and injuries. In Nicol’s final season, the Revolution had a 5-16-13 (28 points) record, tied with Vancouver for last place in the overall standings. Nicol was fired on Oct. 24, 2011, the Revolution surprisingly turning to Heaps less than three weeks later.
Heaps proved to be a fast learner, returning the Revolution to playoff contention, but the team has since fallen behind ambitious opponents, such as New York City FC, Toronto FC, and Atlanta United, an expansion team.
Heaps attempted to revamp the defense as the Revolution attempted to replace A.J. Soares after the 2014 season, but was unable to recruit an effective partner for 2013 MLS defender of the year Jose Gonçalves.
This season, the Revolution signed central defenders Benjamin Angoua and Antonio Delamea, both performing well but inconsistently while adjusting to the league, plus recent addition Claude Dielna.
The Revolution’s 51 goals-against mark (1.76 per game) is last in the conference and they are on pace for their worst defensive record since 2001.
Lack of consistency has hampered the Revolution, who are on the verge of setting team records for home success with a 10-2-2 record (plus-21 goal differential) and road failure (0-12-3).
The Revolution (10-14-5, 35 points) will take a 11-match home unbeaten streak into a game against Toronto FC at 5 p.m. Saturday.
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