Revs enjoy home-field advantage vs. L.A. in MLS CupPosted: Tuesday October 15, 2002 11:14 AM
Updated: Tuesday October 15, 2002 12:29 PM
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New England Revolution will become only the second team in seven years to enjoy home-field advantage at the MLS Cup when it faces the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday (1:30 p.m. ET; ABC).
Making its second straight finals appearance, Los Angeles looks to avenge its loss last year to San Jose, while New England -- which was nothing but a doormat before this season -- is looking to follow the same (nearly) worst-to-first trail that San Jose blazed last year and Kansas City the year before.
"It would be fabulous to win two trophies here in New England this year," said Sunil Gulati, who serves as the Kraft family's chief soccer consultant. "Clearly there has been frustration in the past. Today there is incredible joy."
Gillette Stadium's other tenant, the New England Patriots of the NFL, won the Super Bowl in January.
The Galaxy, now four-time Cup finalists, have never won the title, and history remains against them. Los Angeles has lost twice in the finals at Foxboro (to D.C. in 1996 and 1999); the only the other team to have home-field advantage, D.C. United in 1997, took the title.
But Los Angeles arrives at Gillette Stadium on fire. Carlos Ruiz has shattered the record for most points in a postseason, accumulating his 16th with the game-winning goal in the 64th minute against Colorado last Wednesday.
The goal allowed the Galaxy to dispatch the Rapids in two straight games with relative ease, by an aggregate of 5-0.
"It feels good. This team is very committed to taking home the trophy this year," Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said.
"There's no question that our team came out and played an outstanding game," Rapids coach Tim Hankinson said. "We created numerous chances in the first half that we should have capitalized on. I thought we dominated the first half. Really, it came down to one mistake."
Los Angeles, 4-1 in its last five outings, will run into a very tight Revolution side that has gone 8-2-2 in the last two months and has looked extremely tough through the playoffs.
However, that Revs' facade showed some cracks this weekend as New England almost threw away its ticket to the Cup with a dreadful 10-minute stretch that allowed the Crew to force overtime.
"Nothing ever is easy at this level," Revs coach Steve Nicol said. "But when you get through a final 20 minutes like that, you deserve all the praise you will get. These players have had a lot of faith in themselves and in our system, and a lot of guts.
"There were times this year when I stood in the locker room after losses and told them we were going in the right direction. Give them credit for believing in that."
Saturday, making do without the injured Taylor Twellman (right knee sprain), the Revs jumped in front in the 17th minute, marking the fifth consecutive game at Gillette Stadium they took the lead in the first 20 minutes.
Then, when Wolde Harris scored two minutes into the second half, the Crew, who were porous in the back and unimaginative up front, looked cooked. And why not? They had spent 378 minutes trying to score against New England since Brian McBride's July 4 goal in a 4-1 defeat.
But McBride broke through 10 minutes from the finish, and six minutes later, Dante Washington's close-range header was deflected into his own goal by Carlos Llamosa to level the score.
It wasn't enough as the Revs stonewalled the Crew in sudden death.
"We needed that first goal," a bitterly disappointed McBride said. "But we didn't get it soon enough. We needed a break, a ball off somebody's knee or back or off a rock.
"[Goalkeeper] Adin [Brown] played great angles, and when his angles weren't good, he was in the right spot. New England collapsed well defensively, kept its shape and was really organized. Steve [Nicol] changed the way they'd been in the past."
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