Fielding a side primarily made up of reserves, the New England Revolution lost a hard fought match Tuesday night, to DC United in the US Open Cup semi-finals. Despite tying the score before halftime, the "Reservolution" was clearly outmatched by their east coast rivals.
With Twellman, Mansally and Dube all left off the roster nursing injuries, the Revs had only one true forward available to them: Adam Cristman, who has started a few games this season, but has lost his starter status to Dube and Mansally. Playing as a withdrawn forward was the young and untested Brandon Manzanelli. Joe Germanese, Pat Phelan, and former starter Khano Smith, joined Shalrie in the midfield. The back line consisted of newcomer Rob Valentino and perennial reserve Gary Flood, along with sometime starter Amaechi Igwe at left back. Relegated to Right Back was another former starter Wells Thompson.
DC United fielded their senior squad.
To his credit, Steve Nicol gave the team that got him to the semis, primarily a reserve side, the opportunity to prove themselves. Still, I have to question how much Nicol really wanted to win this. He fielded only one regular starter in Shalrie Joseph. Reis, Ralston, Larentowicz, Castro, Nyassi, Tierney, and Heaps were all left at home, leaving only Albright, Brill, and Tyler available on the bench. They even flew in Brad Knighton from Portland to serve as backup goal keeper, to save Matt Reis for this weekend's match in San Jose.
The Revs have an unbelievable schedule coming up which will test the limits of their core group of players. New England are on a two game per week schedule, starting last week with the SuperLiga final, and continuing through the first week of September. On the line for the Revs is the MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield, as well as CONCACAF Champions League qualifying. It's easy to see how the US Open Cup, a tournament that players play primarily for bragging rights only, as there is little reward for the teams other than a trophy, would take a back seat to the other competitions that offer more prestige and financial reward.
Nicol may have done the right thing in the end by putting more emphasis on the Revs' MLS Cup campaign. I just don't buy the fact that he was trying to win the match.