Those who contend Christmas comes but once a year should consult New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol.
Less than two hours prior to Saturday's encounter with Western Conference leaders FC Dallas, Nicol received word that he would have the services of Clint Dempsey and Pat Noonan. Both were unused substitutes in the afternoon's match between the USA and Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Revs midfielder Steve Ralston was unavailable to Nicol, as he had started and played 84 minutes for the U.S. national team.
"As soon as the U.S. team played their last sub, we had a fair idea," said Nicol. "We've been speaking to [U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena]. With four players with the team, it's hard on us but I accept it. Bruce was willing to work with us."
Both Dempsey and Noonan started for the Revolution, with Noonan withdrawn because of a collision in the 84th minute.
"Dempsey was solid," said Nicol. "It's tough for him because he's training with the United States, playing with them, and now playing with us. Both he and Pat gave 100 percent and contributed to the cause.
"Pat had taken a knock and Bruce was nice to let us have him for the evening. We don't want to abuse the trust."
Nicol was also pleased with the contribution of fellow U.S. national team squad member Matt Reis. His save on Chris Gbandi in the 53rd minute kept the Revs down a goal, setting the stage for a dramatic late comeback.
"Reis was fantastic," said Nicol. "That's why he's in the U.S. squad. He's been excellent for us all season."
Dempsey mentioned that the emotions of a potential appearance in the third match of the night at Gillette Stadium were mixed.
"You are down because you didn't get in the first game, but you're up because you know that you'll get a chance to play with the Revs," said Dempsey.
Noonan and Dempsey adjusted well despite not having trained with the side for two weeks.
"It was a little bit tough, but it all comes back," said Dempsey.
"It wasn't difficult at all," said Noonan. "In the first 10 or 15 minutes, it felt like it at times. We had some good chances before they scored."
In his role as the third 'keeper with the United States, Reis has practiced with the national side while performing in matches with the Revolution.
"It's good and bad," said Reis. "It's difficult to switch. It's good to get back with New England and play."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.