The New England Revolution brought their final day of training Saturday into the stadium field at Pizza Hut Park after training on the fields adjacent to the stadium for the previous two days in preparation for Sunday's MLS Cup Final.
The squad broke from the routine the previous two days. After warming up, coach Steve Nicol divided the squad for some a brief full-field 11-v-11 scrimmage.
The scrimmage may have tipped off Nicol's lineup for Sunday. Playing on one side were goalkeeper Matt Reis, defenders Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst and Joe Franchino, midfielders James Riley, Shalrie Joseph, Daniel Hernandez, Clint Dempsey and Steve Ralston, and forwards Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan.
During the scrimmage, Ralston worked from the left side of midfield and Riley worked from the right. Nicol said that they would probably line up that way for the final.
Ralston's inclusion into the first team during the scrimmage likely indicates he is recovered enough from a left hamstring injury suffered in training leading up to the Eastern Conference Championship.
Defender/midfielder Marshall Leonard is out with a left hamstring strain. Defender Avery John is with Trinidad and Tobago as it takes on Bahrain in a two-leg playoff for a spot in next year's World Cup. Later Saturday, Trinidad & Tobago claimed a vital 1-1 draw in the Asian country. The second leg will be played in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday.
DEDICATED FANS: A handful of Revolution fans from the Midnight Riders watched the players go through their final paces but some of the fans got to Dallas the hard way. Three separate parties of fans said they drove as much as 36 hours from the New England area.
Lisa and Cliff Rober of Bedford, Mass., rented a van shared the driving with their son, 17-year-old Kyle Rober and his friend, 17-year-old Jeff Raymond. Samantha Rober, 15, and her friend, Ariel Whitt, 15, also made the trip.
"They did a great job driving," Lisa Rober said of the two teenagers who shared the driving, "although I yelled at my son a little because he was driving too fast. He was trying to save time."
Chris and Summer Silverman of Fitzwilliam, N.H., drove the family's Honda Civic for 30 hours with their daughter, Lauren Silverman, as a passenger.
The Silverman's said they might have flown but they thought the airfare was too expensive. Chris Silverman said they spent $110 on gasoline for the car.
Carmel and Peter Kearns and daughter Aoife Kearns packed into the family's Kia Spectra and drove 36 and a half hours from Somerville, Mass., a Boston suburb.
"If you ask any one of us, we'd do it again," Chris Silverman said. "(On Sunday), this is our church. Our church is football."
A REVOLUIONARY PATRIOT: Fans who made the effort to travel from the New England area were joined at the training session by Revolution investor/operator Robert Kraft and other members of the Revolution front office.
Kraft, also the owner of the New England Patriots of the National Football League, said he would miss his first Patriots game since become the owner.
"We're playing the (Miami) Dolphins this weekend, but it's not every weekend you get to play for a championship, so were excited about that," Kraft said. "And we hope we can get the deal done."
As he stood on the Pizza Hut Park field, Kraft marveled at the new, soccer-specific stadium. Kraft said he had never been to Pizza Hut Park before Saturday.
"It's beautiful. This is really nice," Kraft said. "It reminds me of these good European stadiums."
Chief Operating Officer Lou Imbriano, Kraft Soccer President Sunil Gulati, General Manager Craig Tornberg joined Kraft as the players trained.
NICOL PLEASED: Nicol, a Scotland international during his playing days, was diplomatic about the 1-1 draw Saturday in a friendly between the United States and Scotland.
"I was hoping the U.S. would do well, but obviously I was hoping Scotland would win," Nicol said. "I guess with a 1-all draw, I can't lose."
Robert Whitman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.