Nicol earns his dime
Revolution coach honored for late-season turnaroundPosted: Wednesday October 16, 2002 11:05 AM
Updated: Thursday October 17, 2002 11:00 AM
ATLANTA (CNNSI.com) -- This should be enough for Steve Nicol to have the "interim" tag removed from his job title.
Major League Soccer announced Wednesday that the Revolution's Nicol has captured the 2002 Coach of the Year Award. Nicol led his squad on an improbable run to the Eastern Conference championship.
The Revolution, 8-1-3 in their last 12 games, play the Los Angeles Galaxy for the title Sunday in Foxboro.
"It's fantastic. Obviously, I'm going to get a few pats on the back," Nicol said after practice. "I'm lucky enough to get my name on the trophy, but it really is a team thing."
The former Scotland and Liverpool player assumed the reigns of the Revolution on May 23 after the squad stumbled to a 2-4-1 start under Fernando Clavijo.
Nicol proceeded to guide New England to a 10-10-1 record, which included a six-game unbeaten streak to close out the season. Under Nicol's direction, the Revs completed a rise from the bottom of the table to the Eastern Conference championship and the second seed in the MLS playoffs.
The Revolution continued to rally under Nicol with a march to MLS Cup 2002. But with voting for the award completed before the end of the quarterfinals, the Revolution's successful playoff run was not a factor in voting for the honor.
Nicol, formerly an assistant under Clavijo, pulled the strings behind the Revs' charge from worst-to-first in the Eastern Conference. A loss to the Chicago Fire on Aug. 18 sent the Revolution to last place in the East and the bottom of the league standings -- seven points from the eighth and final playoff berth.
The Revs went 5-0-1 in their next six matches to pull even with Columbus on the last day of the season, capping the run with a 3-0 win against the MetroStars, a team that had already beaten New England three times during the regular season.
Nicol led an unlikely cast to just its third postseason appearance. The Revolution started the season with former scoring champions in Mamadou Diallo (2000) and Alex Pineda Chacon (2001). Diallo was eventually traded, while Pineda Chacon, last year's MVP, took a back seat with the emergence of scoring phenom Taylor Twellman.
The Revolution shored up its defense with the addition of Mali defender Daouda Kante, who combined with U.S. national team stalwart Carlos Llamosa to lead the Revolution down the stretch.
The Revolution had four other coaches and just one playoff win in their first six seasons.
In their last 10 games, including four in the playoffs, they've allowed just five goals. Two of them came on penalty kicks.
"We all bought into his philosophy," defender Joey Franchino said. "It took a while at the beginning and we all believed in it and he believed in us. We stuck together as a team and as an organization."
In the playoffs, the Revolution beat Chicago in the quarterfinals and Columbus in the semifinals.
The 40-year-old Nicol was New England's interim head coach for the last two games of 1999 and won both. He was a player coach for the Boston Bulldogs of the A League from 1999 to 2001 and joined Clavijo's staff last Jan. 10.
From 1981 through 1995, Nicol made 467 appearances for Liverpool, one of the world's top club teams. He made 27 appearances for the Scottish National Team and started in the 1986 World Cup.
Last year's winner was Frank Yallop, who led San Jose to the MLS championship.
Nicol is the first Revolution coach to win the award.
"He deserves it. He had a rough go at it at the beginning as interim head coach," goalkeeper Adin Brown said. "I sure hope they take the interim off pretty soon."
Revolution managing director Sunil Gulati told him the team wants him back next season, but Nicol wants to wait while he handles more immediate matters.
"Let's get the important thing out of the way and get the games won," Nicol said.
The annual award is determined through votes cast by MLS coaches, general managers, players and members of the Professional Soccer Reporters Association. Other finalists for the honor were Mike Jeffries of the Dallas Burn and Sigi Schmid of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.