Eve of Cup, Nicol sticks with routine
Playing in an MLS Cup Final for New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol is all about preparing in the same way he prepared the squad for every other game this season.
After all, it might be foolish to change the routine of a team that has, going into Sunday's MLS Cup Final against the Los Angeles Galaxy, had its best season in its 10-year history.
The Revolution began the season with an 11-game unbeaten streak and finished with a club record 17 victories. The 2002 team, which was a bit of a surprise when it reached the MLS Cup Final, had 12 victories.
"You try and keep things as normal as possible," Nicol said. "Obviously, there is more stuff with the media. You have to approach it with the right attitude, do you your bit and then get yourself back to the hotel and get rested."
Nicol did not name a starting 11, but said the players have been told what the lineup will be Sunday. It is all a part of the routine.
"The players know," Nicol said. "We let them know and let them think of it again. It's a normal procedure as far as we do it. We always tell them the day before the game."
The Revolution team that will takes the field Sunday will be a clearly better team than the one which took on the Galaxy in the 2002 final.
Nicol said the main difference is the extra quality of every player on the squad.
"We've had good players previously but the players we have at the present time are clearly more talented than we have had previously," Nicol said. "It's just that extra bit of talent that has gotten us that extra step."
Five of the Revolution players likely to start Sunday also played in the MLS Cup Final in 2002: defenders Joe Franchino and Jay Heaps, midfielder Daniel Hernandez and Steve Ralston and forward Taylor Twellman.
The Revolution lost that game 1-0 on a Carlos Ruiz golden goal in Foxborough, Mass.
In between appearing in two MLS Cup Finals, Hernandez spent a stint with Mexican club Necaxa. The Revolution reacquired him on Aug. 5.
Nicol said that Hernandez is a better player than he was his first time around with the Revolution.
"A lot of people call Daniel a defensive midfielder, but he far from that," Nicol said. "That tends to make you think of a guy who (just) destroys things. Daniel starts a lot of things for us. Does he break things up? Yes he does. But once he does he has the ability to start the play."
One Galaxy player Hernandez may run into from time to time is Landon Donovan. Destroying what Donovan does to help his team build an attack in the midfield is one of the keys to a Revolution victory.
But Nicol said he was not concerned that too many Revolution defenders would pay attention to Donovan at the same time. Donovan had only one assist in the two regular season games between New England and Los Angeles, a pair of 1-1 draws 23 days apart in July.
"We're going out to play our ball game," Nicol said. "A player we'll keep our eye on is Landon, but when he gets the ball we need his guy to close him.
Robert Whitman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.