Ok so the Light is shining a bit more

Since posting the last article:

The Revs made the front page of the sports section of Friday's Boston Globe. There were three separate articles in the paper - two on last night's game and one on the upcoming MLS Cup Final.

Taylor Twellman was quoted in the paper saying "The only way we'll get mentioned in Boston is if we win it".

A whole page (D5) was dedicated to the Revs. Granted, a third of it was taken up by a Bank of America ad.

Oh yeah...the Revs winning and going on to the final might have had something to do with it.

Baby steps, baby steps.

Light shines on the Revolution...for a minute or two.

I never thought I would see the day. The Revolution got mentioned on the local sports network.

I have been working on an idea for an article on the lack of coverage the Revs get in the mainstream media, especially TV. The local papers do a pretty good job of reporting the scores, but it is always on the back pages of the sports section and never more than one article per paper, and never more than three papers a week.

Granted its tough to be in professional sports in Boston competing against the likes of the Patriots and the Red Sox. Even the Bruins and the Celtics with their storied legacies are competing for third place against those two monoliths of professional sports. With the amount of sports content in this town, you could fill two newspapers on those four teams alone.

But it really started to bother me while watching the Boston Red Sox during the world series. Listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver is bad enough, but to have to listen to them talk about how things are looking so good for Boston Sports right now with the Patriots undefeated, and the Celtics are revamped, and even the Bruins are looking good.

No mention of the Revolution entering their 7th straight post season.

Granted it's Fox and I shouldn't expect anything from Fox, but with all the meaningless crap being spewed out of the mouth of McCarver you think that maybe they could squeeze in a plug for the Revolution as well.

But to make matters worse, there was no mention from the local TV media at all. So I was getting good and mad at NESN and I had already decided to write an article blasting them for neglecting their forgotten step child when I turned on the TV this morning to get some fresh material. Lo and behold - there is Matt Reis saying:

"They are going to be a little bit smarting from last year and us knocking them out of the playoffs, we're smarting from them beating us at the end of the season, ...there's going to be a lot of smarts out there."
So I kept watching and there was Steve Nicol saying how they needed to focus, and Taylor Twellman saying that they know this team and they should win, and they actually showed footage of them practicing, and then they put up some stats showing how the Revs have made it to the Eastern Conference Final for the last 6 years and they even mentioned the shootout loss to Houston last year.

I couldn't believe it - this was a first for me. Never have I seen a local station show a clip quoting a Revolution player. But as soon as it had started to sink in - it was over. Gone was the Revolution, gone was the practice footage, gone were the stats, and on came the Matt Light Celebrity Shootout (shotguns, not basketball).

I feel unfulfilled. I want more. I want sideline interviews after the game. I want Revolution Day at Fenway Park. I want a televised championship parade on Duck Boats.

But in a town that is ruled by 162 games on a diamond and 16 games on the grid iron, I'll take a minute or two on NESN.

Baby steps, people. Baby Steps.

Enjoying the Winning of Anything

So I went to a pub in Cambridge to watch the 2007 US Open Cup final (between the N.E. Revolution and F.C. Dallas). The buzz on the ‘net was that this particular place was THE place in the Boston area to watch the match.

I got to the place a little after kickoff and knew immediately that I had found the right place. I opened the door and there were about 20 people crowded in front of a big screen projection TV watching the game. As I made my way through the crowd into the bar I noticed about a dozen more sitting around tables watching the match on a wide screen TV mounted on the wall. About half the bar was watching the Revs and the other half was watching the Red Sox (game 1 of the playoffs).

As I made my way up to the bar, the Revs supporters started yelling at the TV. A guy at the bar turned and gave the crowd an exasperated look. It was then I noticed that it was impossible to hear the sound from the TV – the crowd was so loud they were drowning out the sound of the commentary of both the Sox game AND the final.

The guy at the bar turned to me, and seeing my Revolution shirt, asked me what had just happened. In fact nothing much had happened; Revs defender James Riley had stopped Dallas striker in the box and the crowd in the bar was reacting to the flop. The guy said to me, gesturing to the crowd, “Hey I’m a Revs fan too, but these guys are embarrassing.”

Now I will not write out the rest of the dialogue, as intellectually stimulating as it may be. Suffice to say that there was no way that either he or I was going to get them to quiet down. And then the crowd started singing for no reason - there must have been a break in the action.

The guy at the bar introduced himself to me, and after some small talk he asked me what the big deal was about the US Open Cup. After all, it wasn’t the MLS cup, so why get so excited?

I explained to him that this wasn’t a meaningless cup; but in fact that this was the oldest cup competition in the United States – and teams from across the country have competed in this tournament since 1913. “But it’s not the MLS cup…” he said.

I explained further that the competition was open to any team; not just MLS. I went on to say that some of the non-MLS teams in the tournament were actually better than some of the MLS, and that only three MLS teams made it to the quarter finals. I also began to elaborate how these non MLS teams could actually pay their players more than the MLS because they were not bound by the salary cap structure of the MLS, and therefore could attract talent from outside the country, and the competition isn’t as soft as he might think.

“But it’s not the MLS cup…” he said.

Trying a new tack, I tried to explain how the US Open Cup was actually a better tournament than the MLS cup because there are no “guaranteed spots” – and that a team can’t just duff it all season long and then once your team is in the playoffs start to play well. You either win or you’re out.

“I’m trying to get it…but it’s not the MLS cup…wouldn’t you want to win the MLS cup?” he said. “Why worry about this when you could rest your players and try and win the MLS cup?”

I was beginning to understand how English supporters must feel when their teams are focused on winning a so called “meaningless” cup when there is the FA Cup, the table, and the promise of European football to consider.

I pondered this as the crowd of Revs supporters continued to sing and celebrate the goals being scored and the saves being made, and then bemoan the goals from the other team and the fouls being called (or not being called, as the case may be). And then it finally clicked.

You win for the sake of winning. Whether it is a league match, the MLS Playoffs, Copa Sudamerica, SuperLiga or the U.S. Open Cup Final; there is no difference. You are in it to win. That is the point of the game. That’s why the crowds come to see you play, that’s why people buy your shirts, that’s why fans gather in tiny bars and sing their hearts out: to see you win. And if you play the game well, and you can win it all, then you go for it: for the sake of winning. And after you win it all; you can hold the trophy high over your head and say you took on all comers and you won.

I turned to the guy at the bar, and said “Because they can win something. They can win something for the first time.”

He said “Yeah OK …but it’s not the MLS cup.”

Well he got that part right. It’s not the MLS Cup. But to me, it’s just as sweet as the 71 seconds in the 2006 MLS Cup when the Revs had the only lead of the game. For that minute, we were MLS champs, and it was so surreal to watch it slip away.

This time there was no equalizer to force the game to extra time or penalties. This time we walk out of Pizza Hut Park with the win intact. This time, we get to keep the trophy for the whole year. And I, for one, am going to enjoy it.

At least until the playoffs start.


On Wednesday night The Revs won the U.S. Open Cup, their first ever championship in their 12 year history, with a score of 3-2 over FC Dallas.

Pat Noonan scored the opener in the 21st minute, after a Steve Ralston cross found its way through the defense of FC Dallas to Noonan, who was left unmarked. Dallas’s Arturo Alvarez equalized with a brilliant goal in the 30th minute, blasting one by the outstretched hands of Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis, and ricocheting in off the post.

The Revs went ahead just before the half with Taylor Twellman steering in a ball headed down by Pat Noonan from another Ralston cross. Wells Thompson gave them all the goals they would need when he put in a heel flick from Noonan early in the second half. Dallas would come back within one in the 68th minute with a goal off the volley from substitute Abe Thompson, but in the end could not find an equalizer.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the oldest cup competition in the United States, and is open to all soccer teams both amateur and professional. This year 40 teams competed in the tournament, and the last team standing wins it all.

The Revolution’s path to the championship started in the third round, as qualifying MLS teams are granted a bye for the first two rounds of the tournament. There the Revs defeated the 1999 US Open Cup champion Rochester Raging Rhinos. They went on to face the Harrisburg City Islanders, who defeated MLS perennial powerhouse DC United, before going on to face the Carolina Railhawks in the semi finals.

It should be noted that only three MLS teams made it to the quarter finals. DC United was joined in defeat by the likes of former US Open Cup champions Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy, and reigning MLS Cup champions Houston Dynamo, all falling to so-called “minor league’ teams of the USL (United Soccer League) in Carolina, Richmond Kickers, and Charleston Battery. Chivas USA, one of the best teams in MLS, also lost to the USL Champion Seattle Sounders. Colorado was the only other team to reach the quarter-finals, where they were thumped 5-0 by Seattle.

After needing extra time to beat Charleston, FC Dallas managed to reach the semis where they faced off against Seattle. Dallas again went to the wire to win in extra time to make it through to the Finals.

The cup is named after Lamar Hunt (yes the same Lamar Hunt that owned the NFL Kansas City Chiefs until his recent passing). Hunt was an original investor in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1970s, and was a major investor in Major League Soccer – owning three teams (including Dallas) and financed the Columbus Crew Stadium, the first of now many soccer specific stadiums in the country. In 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation decided to rename the tournament the "Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup" in honor of hunt and his devotion to the sport.

So we're in the playoffs....now what?

Imagine your Coach Steve Nicol. It's late September and you are in the playoffs for the 6th year in a row. Shalrie Joseph, your star midfielder, is playing hurt. Taylor Twellman, your star striker, is also hurt. Your other goal scorers Pat Noonan and Andy Dorman are having up and down seasons and look like they could use a three month vacation.

You have four games left in the season, but you are also in the final of the US Open Cup for the first time in a long time.

What do you do?

If you are Steve Nicol, you go for it.

You go for the US Open Cup. You go for the Supporter's Shield. You go for the MLS Cup final. You start Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph. You start Pat Noonan and Andy Dorman even if their limbs are about to fall off.

Because you want to win. Everything.

The Revs and FC Dallas are the only two teams in MLS that are in the running for the American Treble: The US Open Cup, The Supporters Shield (Top points winner in the league) and the MLS Cup Final.

The Revolution have been consistently one of the better teams in the league. However they have failed to take home any championship despite having the best record in the league more than once.

Since Steve Nicol took over, the Revs have been to the post season every year, and have reached the Finals three times. Now pundits in certain arenas are saying that Nicol can't get it done. Some are saying he should forget the Supporters Shield and even the US Open Cup, and concentrate on the MLS Cup.

Not a chance.

This is a chance for the Revs to make history, but more than that, it is a chance for Steve Nicol to prove all the nay-sayers wrong.

Go for it Steve.

Pigs Fly Over Foxboro

Noonan scores two goals and Ralston gets a gift from Twellman, but it's Khano's brilliant performance that sparks the Revs to victory.

Picture by Robert E. Klein/Boston Globe

Never thought I would say this in the same breath....but Khano Smith - man of the match.

Before the game, Revs TV analyst Greg Lalas singled out Andy Dorman as the team under achiever. After scoring 7 goals in the first half of the season, Dorman's performance has subsided, and he has reverted back to the style of play that is more befitting a defensive back than an attacking midfielder. He has been goal-less in league play since July 14, and aside from a goal against Harrisburg City Islanders in early August Dorman hadn't even registered a shot until last Saturday’s game against Dallas.

But even as Dorman has become more invisible over the last few weeks, his level of play is that of a mega star when compared to that of Khano Smith. The 6' 3" Bermudian, a former striker known for his cannon of a left foot, has not scored a goal since he came on as a sub against Columbus in October of last year, his only goal of the season. In fact Khano Smith's overall play has sunk so low this season that he has dropped off the under-achiever radar all together. The New England Fans have grown to expect it. Khano's lackadaisical approach to the game and his inability to make a run unless he has the ball or to add any kind of support in the box for Twellman (and let’s not forget his moon-shot free kicks) have been so over-criticized that the Revolution faithful have all but written him off as nothing more than a place holder on the roster for a new left wing next year.

But on Saturday night, something unexpected happened.

Twenty seconds into the game, Shalrie sent an errant pass long into the left corner and much to the surprise of everyone at Gillette Stadium, Khano Smith ran for it.

Surely this was an aberration, after all this is the very same Khano Smith who is notorious for his slow starts and early exits. Surely this is Smith merely running himself tired a little earlier than usual.

But less than a minute later, there he was again, running down the flank, taking on the defenders. Could it be possible that Khano had come to play? (cue the pigs...)

Maybe it was the absence of suspended Head Coach Steve Nicol, or maybe it was Nicol's ejection the week before (resulting from arguing a foul on Khano in the previous game) that served as Smith's motivation. But whatever the reason, there was a surprising energy in Khano's game, and on Saturday night, he gave Steve Nicol and 15,000 people in Gillette Stadium a reminder of what he can do.

Time and time again, Smith made his runs down the left side, turning on F.C. Dallas Defender Drew Moor inside and outside, and sent cross after cross into the box. Eventually, the crosses began to reach their target and finally, Smith connected; sending a well placed ball to the near post where Noonan met it and flicked it into the net. It was a stunning goal, signaling the beginning of what would be Khano's finest outing of the year (Pigs, prepare for takeoff...).

Just minutes before, Smith missed a golden chance to put the Revs ahead halfway into the first half off of a Ralston free kick. Rising above the crowd in front of the box, Khano connected with a very good header, but it sailed just wide.

The most amazing thing about Khano's performance was that he didn't let up. He played hard the whole game. He continued to challenge the left side of the field, and when Dallas started to double team him, he started to cut the ball inside, and run at the goal where he would dump it off to Twellman and actually continue his run to the goal.

As the game wore on, Khano persistently attacked the flanks and central defenders, and his teammates continued to feed him the ball. It paid off. Smith became more and more involved with the attack - running at the defense. Five minutes into the second half Khano picked up a loose ball in the mid field and took it right at the defense, laid it off perfectly to Twellman and continued toward goal, but Twellman went the other way. Fifteen minutes later, Smith repeated the very same play, but again, Twellman elected to take it himself rather than dish it back to the wide open Smith, only to have it blocked over the net by Dallas keeper Dario Sala.

Minutes later, Khano switched fields to bring down a corner kick and passed it perfectly to the onrushing Riley who sent it over the net. On the next possession Khano takes up a pass from Shalrie Joseph at midfield and ran into the corner, where he again delivered the ball perfectly to the feet of Twellman, only Sala was a step too fast and smothered the ball. Then again it was Khano who applied the pressure on the ensuing attack and came up with a steal right in front of Sala, only to have his shot blocked at the last second by Dallas defender Drew Moor.

In the 77th minute, it was Khano who ran back to collect the ball, and then fed it into Twellman, who in turn passed it wide to Dorman who crossed it perfectly to Ralston, who, after seeing his first effort blocked by a sprawling Sala, leapt over the keeper to put the ball firmly in the back of the net, giving the Revs a 3-1 lead.

With a one goal lead in the 84th minute, the Revs having just surrendered another goal to Dallas, it was Khano who ran down to the far corner to collect a long cross by Cristman and won a corner kick. And again, in the 87th minute it was Khano who ran on to a pass by Cristman in front of the box, and again put a sweet ball right onto the feet of Twellman, who forcefully steered the ball in the back of the net, but, was offside. (Clear the runway...)

But finally, all of Smith’s hard work paid off in the 90th minute, when a loose ball escaped Cristman and Twellman just outside the box, and Khano cut to his right and one-time-drilled it past Sala...with his right foot. (Pigs, you have clearance for flight).

The crowd went wild. The team went wild. Khano jumped into the crowd in the Fort. They were actually hugging him.

With his wrong foot, Khano Smith sealed the win that he was so instrumental in providing for his team.

Oh, you beautiful, wing-ed pork chops that fly on high…. Will wonders never cease...

Two If By Sea...?

The signings of two Gambian youth internationals, Sainey Nyassi and Abdoulie Mansally, have yet to provide the added firepower New England is looking for. Instead, the Revs have relied on the likes of Jeff Larentowicz (a true defensive midfielder) to add to the offense. Larentowicz has not disappointed - in fact he led the charge in the Open Cup semi final against the Carolina Railhawks in early September.
With his team down a goal late in the first half, Larentowicz became visibly frustrated by the lack of offense from his team. You could see it unfold on the pitch - Larentowicz intercepted a ball, and played it off to Adam Cristman in the corner and started running straight to the goal. Cristman quickly fed it to Noonan on the side of the box, and Noonan put it thigh - high, square across the front of the goal for the on-rushing Larentowicz, and with an amazing dive, he headed it fiercly into the goal.

It was only Big Red's third goal of the season, but each of the goals have been spectacular. His last league goal from a free kick against Real Salt Lake that he blasted by the wall and the keeper and everyone else came in Late July. The first goal of the season was a Crouching Tiger kick (but without the wires) off of a Ralston corner kick against Chicago that Larentowicz rose into the air in a horizontal position and met the ball feet first (if anyone has a picture of this let me know).