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7:30 pm ET (WB-56)
A New England Revolution desperately needing points to maintain any hope of a postseason berth has a difficult test ahead when they play host to the owners of the best record in MLS in the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night. The Revolution are five points adrift of fourth-place Chicago with five matches remaining for both teams - and come into the weekend with a chance of having third place in the East their only possible hope by season's end. Though they own the Western Conference leadership, the Rapids are far from home and dry, as just seven points separates top to bottom and Colorado have one fewer match left than every other team in the division.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Ken Kaplan; 4th: Nik Bratsis
MLS Career: 23 games; FC/gm: 31.7; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 5; pens: 10
Games involving Revolution: P4 W0 L1 T3; FC/gm: 27.5; Y/gm: 1.8; R: 1; pens: 1
Games involving Rapids: P6 W2 L3 T1; FC/gm: 25.2; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 1; pens: 1
INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MD Darryl Powell (R knee sprain); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); DOUBTFUL: DF Joey DiGiamarino (L groin); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain); DF Gary Sullivan (L lower leg) ... NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: GK Adin Brown (concussion); DF Carlos Llamosa (L knee sprain); FW Joe-Max Moore (R knee sprain); GK Kyle Singer (R shoulder sprain); DF Joe Franchino (R hip strain); PROBABLE: MD Clint Dempsey (L ankle sprain); DF Marshall Leonard (R toe sprain); MD Shalrie Joseph (R knee sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: NE: Avery John (through Sept. 18)
YELLOW PERIL: NE: Clint Dempsey (18 CP) ... COL: Nat Borchers (20 CP); Antonio de la Torre (20 CP); Kyle Beckerman (17 CP)
HEAD-TO-HEADThe teams meet for the third of three times this season, the only meeting at Gillette Stadium. After a scoreless draw in the first meeting in Denver, the Rapids claimed a 1-0 victory in their last meeting.
The Rapids continued their dominance on the Fourth of July against an appropriate opponent in the Revolution. The Rapids have won eight times in nine matches at home on Independence Day, also marked by huge crowds for the post-match fireworks extravaganza.
The game's lone goal came against the run of play 11 minutes from time, Cuban striker Alberto Delgado claiming his first MLS goal, prodding the ball over the line and the fallen Matt Reis after Chris Henderson's header was pushed off the face of the bar by the Revs 'keeper.
Here's Tim Hankinson's team (4-2-2-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Ritchie Kotschau - Matt Crawford, Kyle Beckerman (Seth Trembly 74) - Chris Henderson, John Spencer - Alberto Delgado (Gary Sullivan 86), Jordan Cila (Darryl Powell 60)
Here's Steve Nicol's team (4-4-1-1): Matt Reis - Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps, Avery John, Marshall Leonard - Richie Baker, Joe Franchino, Clint Dempsey, Felix Brillant - Jose Cancela - Pat Noonan
A 10-man Revolution survived a tense final quarter-hour to come away with a scoreless draw on May 7 in Denver. Both goalkeepers stood tall as the teams played to the draw. Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon made a number of fine stops early on, then it was Adin Brown's turn over the final 15 minutes, saving his side's share of the spoils after Sharlie Joseph was sent off.
Each time won once last season, each on their home ground, with the third meeting between the teams a scoreless draw.
The Rapids won 4-1 in a sterling effort on June 14 at home (Trembly 9, Spencer 21, Chung 39, Carrieri 69 - Harris 81) as Revs 'keeper Adin Brown kept the scoreline that close.
The Revolution responded two weeks later in Foxborough with a wild 3-2 victory (Harris 7, Twellman 80, own goal (Hart) 84 - Chung 34, Spencer 66). The scoreless draw came on Sept. 18 at Gillette Stadium as both teams played a man down for much of the match, the Rapids left with nine men after a second red card during extra time.
The teams have evenly split their seven meetings over the last two seasons, each winning three with one draw. The Revs won the season series in 2001 with a victory and a draw, but before that, the Rapids won both meetings in the season series for three years running, in 1998, 1999 (one by shootout) and 2000.
Chris Henderson leads the Rapids all-time scoring leader chart against the Revs, with 4 goals, 10 assists while with Colorado (he has 6 goals, 11 assists for his career v New England). Mark Chung is next with 6 goals, 2 assists while with Colorado (career: 8 goals, 6 assists); Wolde Harris - who was traded to the Revs from the Rapids in 1999 - also had 6 goals, 2 assists. John Spencer is next among active Rapids with 3 goals, 2 assists.
Taylor Twellman leads the Revolution all-time leaders with 6 goals, 2 assists against Colorado. Next on the list is Joe-Max Moore (4 goals, 2 assists), followed by former Rapids striker Wolde Harris, who had 4 goals, 1 assist when with the Revs. Steve Ralston has 5 goals, 5 assists during his career v Colorado - just 4 assists while in New England.
Coaches record: Tim Hankinson v NE: P20 W8 L9 T3 ... Steve Nicol vs. COL: P8 W3 L3 T2
ALL-TIME (23 meetings): Revolution 8 wins (2 shootout), 31 goals ... Rapids 12 wins (1 shootout), 42 goals ... 3 draws
IN FOXBOROUGH (11 meetings): Revolution 5 wins (2 shootout), 21 goals ... Rapids 4 wins (0 shootout), 21 goals ... 2 draws
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The New England Revolution lost for the third time in four matches, seeing their winless streak extended to five games at the worst time, losing a two-goal lead in falling 3-2 away to the MetroStars on Saturday evening at Giants Stadium. The Revolution were left fighting for their postseason lives, now five points out of the top four (behind D.C. United) with 24 points from 25 matches - 13 adrift of East-leading Columbus Crew.
The MetroStars defeated the Revolution for the first time in 11 league and MLS Cup meetings, coming back from an early two-goal deficit to claim a 3-2 victory and pull within a point of the East-leading Columbus Crew.
Pat Noonan gave the visitors the lead after just five minutes, his glancing header off a Steve Ralston catching out a flat-footed Metro defense. Taylor Twellman then doubled the lead just before the quarter-hour after a remarkable bit of head tennis, a Matt Reis clearance headed on first by Noonan, then by Ralston, before Twellman looped a header over Metro 'keeper Jonny Walker from just inside the right corner of the area (14).
But the MetroStars began their fightback barely 15 minutes later, Mike Magee cheekily converting from the penalty spot after Eddie Gaven was tripped up by Joe Franchino after racing into the box, Magee smoothly chipping the ball down the center of the goal.
The home side then pulled level in stoppage time before the break, Gaven finishing off a neat passing sequence after Magee's chip from the left was subtlely helped on by Fabian Taylor before the Metro teenager came on to bang the ball home.
The MetroStars then completed their comeback midway through the second half when Cornell Glen scored after a long run, set free by a pinpoint through ball from John Wolyniec inside his own half. The Trinidad & Tobago international outraced two defenders before beating Reis inside his right post from right on the edge of the area (68).
"It's devastating to us," Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston said of the defeat. "You go on the road, with the kind of start we had, it's a dream start for us. We've been starting off slowly and we get two goals early. It was huge for us, and we blew it. Bottom line, we blew it."
Revolution boss Steve Nicol made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 at home to the San Jose Earthquakes the previous weekend. Jay Heaps made his first start in four matches, while Joe Franchino returned after missing four games through injury, both coming into a reconstituted back four in place of Avery John and Marshall Leonard.
Here's Nicol's team (4-1-3-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Rusty Pierce, Steve Howey (Andy Dorman 76), Joe Franchino (Avery John 37) - Shalrie Joseph - Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey, Brian Kamler (Felix Brillant 69) - Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman.
"When you're up, 2-nil, you expect to win," said Nicol. "We pushed and pushed the second half, made some chances, then got punished. ... We've got five left, three with teams above us [in the conference]. It won't be easy."
The Revs again suffered an injury blow when Franchino was forced off after just 37 minutes, reaggravating his hip strain - and will now likely be lost for the remainder of the season. "It happened during a burst of speed,'' he said. "It's not something you can really test. I just knew I did it again. Now I'm done. I'll probably be out for the season. I missed three weeks and then I tried to come back to help my team. I came back a little early.''
The loss of Franchino caused a reshuffle in the back for the Revs. "Even at 2-0 you could see exactly how they were going to play,'' Revs defender Rusty Pierce said. "We knew it. The coach told us to force them outside. The job was asked of somebody to force them outside. They forced them inside. We got exactly what we deserved on the day. They (MetroStars) didn't change. They kept playing away at the things they knew would work. ... "We stayed outside and forced them inside. That left Clint (Dempsey) and Shalrie (Joseph) to play against four of their guys most of the night. Was it realistic that two guys could play against four guys?"
The Colorado Rapids took their turn atop the Western Conference, taking over the divisional lead and in the MLS overall table with a 3-1 victory against the Kansas City Wizards at home on Friday night. The Rapids now have 39 points from 26 matches, one ahead of both the Wizards and Los Angeles Galaxy, though they've played one more game than every other team in the conference.
The Rapids were once again saved by goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who saved a potential late equalizer from the spot as the Wizards failed to hold onto the Western Conference lead for more than a week, the Rapids extending their home undefeated run to eight matches.
Josh Wolff gave the Wizards an 11th-minute lead from the penalty spot after Cannon tripped him up in the area after the Kansas City striker chased down a long ball played over the top, but Mark Chung equalized with a penalty after Jean-Philippe Peguero was bundled over in the box (24).
Jordan Cila then gave the home side the lead on the hour, coolly slotting home after being picked out by Chris Henderson completely unmarked in the heart of the area.
But 10 minutes from time Wolff was again tripped by Cannon after racing alone into the area, yet this time the Rapids goalkeeper denied the U.S. international, diving to his right to parry Wolff's shot. Kyle Beckerman capped the scoring two minutes into stoppage time, curling home a shot from the left side of the area.
"It was a great night, great energy in the stadium," Rapids head coach Tim Hankinson said. "The save by Joe on the dive was inspiring to all the fans, the players. That just lit the night up."
Hankinson made one change to the team that defeated the Dallas Burn 2-1 at home with a late goal the previous Saturday. Jordan Cila came back into the starting lineup in central midfield, replacing Kyle Beckerman.
Here's Hankinson's team (4-1-3-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre (Ricky Lewis 80), Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Matt Crawford - Pablo Mastroeni, Chris Henderson, Jordan Cila (Seth Trembly 80), Mark Chung - Jean-Philippe Peguero, John Spencer (Kyle Beckerman 87).
"We can't be satisfied that we suddenly got a taste of first," Hankinson said. "There's not going to be any backing down. We did this last year, we qualified (for the postseason) six games in advance, started thinking life was going to be easy and lost concentration. We went flat when it counted."
For Beckerman, it was his first goal since his first professional start, on Sept. 9, 2000 with the Miami Fusion, in a 6-2 victory at D.C. United.
The Rapids still own the best defensive record in the league, but the back four has finally become settled in the past few weeks, with Ritchie Kotschau and Nat Borchers centrally, and Antonio de la Torre (right) and Matt Crawford at fullback.
"I think overall we're just working for each other," Kotschau said. "There is a lot of communication and a lot of organization in the back, getting players established and getting players to drop back."