Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Revs deeply impacted by marathon bombings
By Brian O'Connell
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Monday, April 15, 2013 was supposed to be just another routine off day for the New England Revolution. Like many a Monday during the regular season, it was a day the coaching staff gave the players to recover from the wear and tear endured during the previous weekend’s match.
For the players, it was the perfect occasion -- a picturesque clear and comfortable early-spring day -- to head up to Boston. It was Patriots Day -- a state holiday. So naturally, there was plenty to do in and around city, especially with the running of the 119th Boston Marathon on tap.
What should have been just an ordinary day away from the office turned into a scene of terror and chaos when two bombs exploded near the Marathon’s finish line, killing three and injuring over 260. With a number of Revolution players within earshot of the explosions, the attacks had a profound effect on the entire team.
"It was emotional (day),” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “It was intense. So many things were going on, and I had a lot of friends and people that I know who were there.”
One such friend Nguyen had in the immediate vicinity of the bombings was teammate Matt Reis. Minutes before the bombs exploded, Reis and his family stood watch near the finish line ready to cheer on his wife, Nicole, who was running in the historic race.
But the smiles and applause that awaited Nicole never came. The first bomb exploded within yards of where Reis was standing. He and his children escaped unharmed, but his father-in-law, John Odom, suffered serious injuries to his leg. Injuries that could have killed him had Reis not acted quickly to save his life.
Amid the shockwaves and chaos that followed the echoes of the explosions, the Revolution goalkeeper raced over to the scene knowing Odom was likely in danger. He found Odom on the ground. Assessing the situation quickly, Reis removed his jacket and used it as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding in Odom’s leg.
“It was all a complete reaction," Reis told the media days after the bombings. "I handed (my son, Jacob) off to my brother-in-law. I knew that (the blast) was right back where we (just) were, so I wanted to try and get back in there and help."
Odom was rushed to the hospital, spent weeks in the intensive care unit, and would eventually endure months of rehab before he was allowed to return to his home in California. But Reis, one of the most popular players in franchise history, would be one of many at the scene who’d have to live with the emotional scars that came from it.
"He's family,” Nguyen said. “And his family is (our) family, and the whole organization and the whole city of Boston, we were all behind him and behind his whole family. We knew how hard it was for him, and we were just trying to support him as much as we could."
Reis would go on to play again in 2013, and helped lead the Revolution to their first postseason appearance in four years by posting a 6-0-3 record down the stretch. He retired at the end of the season to return to California and serve as goalkeeper coach for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Revolution -- like Boston's other professional teams -- did their part to try to help ease the pain of the city’s devoted sports fanbase.
In their first home game following the bombings, Revolution coach Jay Heaps donned an official blue-and-gold Boston Marathon jacket, while players wore black memorial armbands. A “Boston Strong 617” Revolution jersey hung from the Fort, as well. A 2-0 win over the Union served as a much-needed antidote for many, including Reis, who felt the painful effects of the bombings.
“We had players who were literally affected by it, and players that were around it,” Heaps said. “So I think it was an emotional time, and something that we don't take for granted.”
“It was a tragic day,” Nguyen said. “But I think the city came together really well last year. The whole city, the whole team, we came together and played really well and pushed on through the end of the season.”
Heaps knows the events -- both tragic and heroic -- of that day will never be forgotten by his squad. It was a squad that not only rallied around one of its own, but rallied for an entire city.
"It's something that will always be a part of our club,” Heaps said. “It's something that we talked about as a group, and we continue to pray for all the people that were truly affected by it."