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.
Picture by Robert E. Klein/Boston GlobeNever 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
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
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
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
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
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...
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