Revolution tops Fire to advance to MLS Cup finalNov 9, 2007 - 4:01 AM
Steve Nicol's team booked themselves a third straight MLS Cup final appearance with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in Thursday night's Eastern Conference final.
Now all New England needs to do is break break through in the final itself, having never yet won an MLS title in three attempts.
A superb goal from Taylor Twellman made the difference at Gillette Stadium, with the Team USA international firing home a bicycle kick in the 38th minute after muscling his way between Dasan Robinson and C.J. Brown to reach the ball.
"It was a fantastic goal," Nicol said. "The type of goal you want to win such a big games as this."
Twellman said instinct took over as the ball looped above him.
"It was the only way I could get a shot off. The ball was right there so I gave it a whirl," he said.
Chicago entered the game on a 10-game unbeaten streak which had carried them from the depths of the Eastern Conference to the brink of the MLS Cup final.
The confidence showed in the early stages as the Fire put together some neat passing moves to put New England under pressure.
But the Revolution defense stood firm, and for all Chicago's early possession, it was New England who had the first clear chance when Twellman forced a fine save from Matt Pickens with a looping header from Khano Smith's cross.
Chicago star Cuauhtemoc Blanco wanted a penalty in the 23rd minute when he crumbled theatrically under Wells Thompson's challenge, but referee Kevin Stott correctly waved away the Mexican's protests.
It would be that kind of night for Blanco and the Fire.
Paulo Wanchope then headed narrowly wide for Chicago, but it was at the other end that the deadlock was broken by Twellman moments later.
With the Chicago defense crumbling, Twellman had a chance to double the lead before the break but fired wide when stretching to meet Thompson's cross.
Fire coach Juan Carlos Osorio hauled off Robinson, replacing him with Diego Gutierrez at halftime, but it did little to improve things at the back.
New England should have capitalized, but Twellman and Pat Noonan both fluffed chances.
Chicago was pushing for an equalizer and Chad Barrett went close just before the hour mark before William Conde let fly on a rare foray forward, just missing the target from 25 yards.
Twellman nearly doubled his tally in the 68th minute when a swift New England counterattack left him all alone on the edge of the area, but his chipped shot was not high enough to beat Pickens.
"I felt like I let the team down a couple of times," Twellman said. "I should have scored to ease the pressure."
Chicago came forward with wave after wave of attacks in the final 10 minutes, and almost got the equalizer in the 90th minute when Calen Carr forced goalkeeper Matt Reis to his knees to stop his header.
That save signalled the end of Chicago's turbulent season.
After an abysmal first half of the campaign, the arrival of Blanco and Osorio transformed the team's fortunes, but any pride the Colombian had in the season was drowned out by disappointment after the game.
"I think we had a good enough team to keep going," Osorio said.
Most disappointing of all for Osorio was the nature of the goal that killed off his team.
"It was a great goal for (Twellman) but a poor goal for us," he said. "We should have defended better, especially the second ball. We cannot turn our backs on a ball inside the box, that is unacceptable."
It proved decisive.
"It was a tough game, but I thought any clear chances that there were, we had them," Nicol said. "The chances they had were scrappy challenges in the box, but the chances we had there was good movement on the ball. I think we deserved it."
Reis made 10 saves for New England, which advances to face the winner of Saturday's Western Conference final between Houston and Kansas City.
The MLS Cup final is at Washington's RFK Stadium on November 18.
The way Boston's sports teams are going right now, New England will feel the pressure to do their bit.
"We're going to have to win it just to get a look in," Twellman said.
- EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
MLS CHICAGO 0
NEW ENGLAND 1 FINAL
Nov 8 9:45 PM
- EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
MLS CHICAGO 0
NEW ENGLAND 1 HALFTIME
Nov 8 8:40 PM
- MLS UPDATE
NEW ENGLAND 1
NEW ENGLAND GOAL: Taylor Twellman in the 38th minute
Fire vs. RevolutionNov 8 8:31 PM
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