Amid a gloomy November morning, the New England Revolution took to the practice pitch in Foxboro for the next-to-last time in 2006 Wednesday morning. With one remaining home training session scheduled for Thursday afternoon before the team departs for Frisco, TX, many of the players gave their thoughts to Sunday’s MLS Cup Final in contrast to the team’s previous title game appearances in 2002 and 2005. Of the current roster, four players – Joe Franchino, Jay Heaps, Steve Ralston and Taylor Twellman - have played in both of the Revs’ previous title games.
Ralston compared last year’s approach versus this year’s. “Last year, we had a lot of guys banged up,” said Ralston, who despite sitting out Sunday’s Eastern Conference final, is listed as “probable” for Sunday. “Last year, it seemed everything caught up with us at about this time of the year. This year, I feel like everyone feels really good.”
In 2005, the Revs topped the Eastern Conference standings with a 17-7-8 (59 pts.) en route to the MLS Cup Final. Although the Revs didn’t quite achieve the same regular season success (12-8-12), they nonetheless finished strong with a 7-1-2 record (including playoffs) down the stretch. “We’re as confident as we were last year,” said Ralston. “Obviously, last year, everything was great from Day 1 and all the way through the season. This year was a lot more of a roller coaster with (more) ups and downs. But right now I think our team’s really come together (in) the last month or so, so we feel really good going into the game.”
Manager Steve Nicol was asked of the differences this time around heading into the club’s third title appearance under his guidance. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s too much (of a difference). It’s all about preparation (for) every game we play. If we prepare properly for it, then we expect to go out and play (well). And that’s exactly how we’re approaching this game. We’re going to prepare properly, keep things sharp, and don’t overdo it, and go out there and play (well).”
Forward Taylor Twellman was a little more direct than Nicol in his evaluation the club’s perspective this time around.
“We’re kind of trying to make up for the debacle last year,” Twellman stated. When asked to elaborate on his particular use of the word ‘debacle,’ the MLS All-Star responded, “It was a huge letdown obviously with the year we had last year. But this is a new season, and we look forward to a new final.”
With respect to the team’s approach to this year’s Championship match versus last year’s, he put it simply. “Win the game – the approach is the same. We’ll do the same stuff but obviously, we just want different results.”
Many of the veterans realize the impact of what a championship could mean for this current group of players. The likes of Franchino & Co., all of whom have become synonymous with Revolution soccer in recent years, are certainly not getting any younger. The potential of Sunday’s game being the final time this team’s core of veterans grace the pitch as teammates is certainly apparent, and the urgency of finally securing a championship is great. With future playoff chances anything but a given, the need to capitalize on this present opportunity is certainly not lost on the minds of the players, especially on the part of Ralston.
“You never know when you’re going get another chance.”