Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tonight, Tonight

We'll make things right, we'll feel it all tonight
We'll find a way to offer up the night tonight
The indescribable moments of your life tonight
The impossible is possible tonight

-Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight"

It all starts tonight.

And while much of the region is saturated in the Red Sox playoff parade and the Patriots early-season invincibility, the New England Revolution has something considerably larger on the line this evening: the chance to capture a major championship.

Before the megalithic NFL and its Super Bowl, the “Curse” and pink hats, there was the U.S. Open Cup, one of the oldest cup tournaments in global soccer. And tonight, the Revolution has the prospect of bear hugging one of the most prestigious trophies in North America.

What is at stake? In addition to the obvious winner’s booty – the shiny Lamar Hunt Trophy - the match is a bonafide opportunity for the Revs to add a major piece of hardware to their currently barren trophy display. It’s the opportunity for its fans to finally celebrate a championship victory that’s eluded the club since its inception in 1996. The opportunity to finally rub elbows with their regional sports counterparts and say “hey, we’ve got a championship too, you know!”

Mind you, the Revs have played in championship games before. But much like the playoff histories of the Red Sox and the Patriots they’ve endured the heartbreak of coming up just short when the trophies are within reach. In 2001, they played for the US Open Cup and lost in tear-jerking fashion to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2001 by a 2-1 score in which the clincher was scored in stoppage time. They’ve also painfully endured three MLS Cup runner-up finishes - two of which ended in overtime (2002, 2005) and one decided on gut-wrenching penalties (2006). Of course, with these memories in mind, tonight’s match is especially important for those who have been in Foxboro for the majority of these ripped-right-out-of-your-heart finishes.

It’s the opportunity for veterans like Steve Ralston, Taylor Twellman, Matt Reis, and Shalrie Joseph, all of whom have sported the red white and (navy) blue, to finally taste the sweet rewards of a deserved championship after rubbing their eyes from witnessing others hoist trophies. This holds especially true for Ralston, the MLS ironman of 334 matches and counting, and a league stalwart since the first green and blue ball was kicked. After 12 seasons, the wily vet has played without complaint on less-than-stellar teams. He’s been asked to do everything except strap on the goalkeeper mitts, and has quietly gone about his business like a true professional.

So tonight, with so much at stake, the Revolution march into Texas to face their MLS counterparts – FC Dallas – and hope the only thing between them and the vaunted trophy is 90 minutes of inspired and spectacular soccer.

As if the match wasn’t already heavy with subplots, the club marches into the very venue – Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, TX – where they tasted the bitterness of their latest agonizing defeat: the 4-3 on penalties to Houston Dynamo last November. The vision of a saddened Jay Heaps, chewing the collar of his navy blue jersey after missing the decisive kick on what could easily be argued as the most frustrating loss in club, history still resonates in the minds of many.

But that was then; this is now. The Revolution are fresh off an encouraging 1-0 victory over a resurgent Colorado Rapids team, and are in prime position with a bevy of healthy players to finally bring home the booty. Striker Taylor Twellman, who sat out the Colorado match due to a groin strain, is expected to start. The Revs have largely outplayed the Hoops in both matches this season, with 1-0 and 4-2 victories over Steve Morrow’s squad. This, without mentioning that FC Dallas enters the match coming off of a good ol’ 3-0 Sunday afternoon shellacking at the hands of Houston. If the match were played on paper, the Revs would surely dominate.

“But that’s why they play the games!”, if you listen to the infinite wisdom of ESPN’s Chris Berman. Anything can happen. But if you’re a betting individual, you have to like the local lads’ chances.

So with that, the collective eyes of Revolution Nation will be affixed to their TVs, radios, and computers, painstakingly tracking the progress of match like a trash mag photographer on Sunset Strip. When the Revs score a goal, the game clock will restlessly snail forward. When behind, the clock suddenly becomes turbocharged energizer bunny after twelve red bulls, as brows will condensate and teeth will clench.

And to those of you closely watching the Sox and Angels tonight on TBS during the US Open Cup Final: take a minute in between innings and switch the station to Fox Soccer Channel and catch a glimpse of your local soccer team’s efforts in capturing a championship. You don’t have to watch the entire match, or even understand exactly what’s going on. Just sit back, and take a look at what could become one of the most joyous moments in New England sports history.

1 comment:

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