FOXBOROUGH -- The first six Revolution seasons were an uphill struggle, the team qualifying for the Major League Soccer playoffs twice and winning only one game in the postseason. But the Revolution's 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire yesterday was their second Eastern Conference championship win and fourth successive appearance in the final.
''We were going to keep working at it until we got it right," Revolution owner Jonathan Kraft said. ''The last four years the team has stepped up the competitive level to where we have wanted it to be. It is nice to be competitive but our ultimate goal is the championship."
Asked about the changes that produced a successful team, starting with the appointment of Sunil Gulati as president of Kraft Soccer and continuing to coach Steve Nicol, Kraft replied:
''Finding good people and letting them do what they are good at. Steve and Sunil are able to do it in soccer."
Overflowing with Cups
The Revolution's win yesterday qualified them for the MLS Cup final against the Los Angeles Galaxy next Sunday, and it also advanced them to the 2006 CONCACAF Champions Cup. ''This is huge for us because the World Club Championship has been changed to an annual event, and we are one of eight teams [in the region] playing for a chance to play in it," Gulati said. ''We will start focusing on it next Monday [Nov. 14]." The Revolution were eliminated in the first round of the Champions Cup in 2003, playing twice against Alajuelense in Costa Rica. ''We will plan differently because we will know the dates a long time in advance," Gulati said. ''We will deal with the climatic issues." . . . The crowd of 18,118 broke the Revolution home playoff record of 16,233 set in 1997 against D.C. United at Foxboro Stadium. The previous Gillette Stadium playoff record crowd was 14,823, in 2003 against the MetroStars. The 2002 MLS Cup at Gillette, not technically a home game, drew 61,316.
One that got away
Fire midfielder Jesse Marsch, who won MLS Cup titles with D.C. United in 1996 and '97 and the Fire in '98, took part of the blame for surrendering the Revolution goal. Marsch had been called for a foul on Taylor Twellman, and the Fire failed to quickly recover for Daniel Hernandez's free kick to Shalrie Joseph, whose shot was converted by Clint Dempsey in the fourth minute. ''They caught us off guard," Marsch said. ''Typically, you need somebody to stop the ball, but we fell asleep. I turned around and, all of a sudden, [Joseph] was shooting. If you look at the possession chart, we were clearly ahead, but that doesn't mean you are going to win the game." Marsch's prediction for the MLS Cup final set for Sunday in Frisco, Texas? ''The best player in the MLS [Landon Donovan] against New England," Marsch said. ''Landon is very hard to deal with, especially on a big field. He is going to find space on that [Pizza Hut Park] field." . . . New England defender Joe Franchino started his MLS career with the Galaxy, then joined the Revolution in 2000, losing to the Galaxy in the US Open Cup final in 2001 and MLS Cup in 2002. ''We accomplished a goal by winning [the Eastern Conference championship] but our ultimate goal is to win the Cup," Franchino said. ''It is a chance to get a little revenge. But [the Galaxy] looked good against Colorado [a 2-0 win Saturday] and we are going to have our work cut out for us with Landon and Cobi [Jones]. Cobi is a class act and is still playing great."