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Revolution 2, RailHawks 1

It's a rough road to final

Revolution win chippy contest

The Revolution's Adam Cristman is fouled by Carolina's David Stokes in the 80th minute. The Revolution's Adam Cristman is fouled by Carolina's David Stokes in the 80th minute. (FRED BECKHAM/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. - The Revolution were successful in a semifinal match for the fifth time in seven seasons. Having advanced to three MLS Cups and a US Open Cup final, the Revolution took a 2-1 extra-time win over the Carolina RailHawks last night, qualifying them for next month's Open Cup final.

Pat Noonan's 94th-minute goal made the difference in a dramatic match in which three players (the Revolution's Shalrie Joseph and Carolina's Connally Edozien and David Stokes) were ejected; two Revolution players (Chris Loftus and Sianey Niassey) made their professional debuts; Noonan hit the post twice (14th and 61st minutes); Carolina's Chad Dombrowski had a header headed off the line (58th) by Michael Parkhurst and another saved just before the final whistle; and things generally took on a chaotic feel as referee Shane Moody struggled to take control.

Joseph, who was red-carded along with Edozien, a former teammate, in the 42d minute, will be suspended for the title match in the 93d annual tournament, against FC Dallas Oct. 3. FC Dallas defeated the Seattle Sounders last night, 2-1.

"These games are always like that," Revolution captain Steve Ralston said. "From the opening whistle, [the RailHawks] sent the message they were going to kick people, then it settled down.

"But this means nothing; we have to win in the finals. We have experience, we know all about them. Every team's goal is to win the final and, obviously, we want to win it. We've been so close before and we definitely want to win something."

The Revolution are 0-4 in finals, losing twice in sudden-death overtime, once in extra time, and once on penalty kicks.

This was the ninth match decided from the 90th minute on in the Revolution's 16 US Open Cup matches since their debut in the tournament, a 4-3 sudden-death overtime loss to the Long Island Roughriders at Veterans Stadium 10 years ago.

The Revolution played without starters Jay Heaps (calf) and Taylor Twellman (illness), both expected to return for their next MLS game, a visit to D.C. United Sunday. And they struggled after surrendering a sixth-minute goal to Anthony Maher, who was playing as a lone forward.

But as an extremely eventful first half was winding down, Jeff Larentowicz tied the score with a diving header at the back post off a Noonan cross.

The match became wide open in the second half, the Revolution squandering several chances against a nine-man RailHawks team after Stokes was ejected in the 80th minute.

But the Revolution did not break through until they were sparked by Niassey, an 18-year-old Gambian youth international, who replaced defender Avery John at the start of extra time. The Revolution went to a two-defender setup, Ralston and Niassey both pushing forward on the right wing. On the deciding sequence, Niassey broke free on the wing, then cut the ball back for Cristman, who laid off for Noonan to slam a 20-yard shot over goalkeeper Chris McClellan.

In the second 15-minute extra-time session, the Revolution failed on several breakaways, Cristman and Khano Smith missing open nets, Cristman and Niassey also being taken down from behind. Those misses nearly cost the Revolution, the RailHawks rallying for a last-second header off a corner kick by Dombrowski, saved by Matt Reis.

"We never expected anything else," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. "It was a rough encournter, both teams giving it and taking it. We should have taken some chances but it's a win and we're in the final.

"The referee didn't have enough control from the start and that led to problems during the game. Shalrie took the bait from Connally - he should have known better and Connally should have known better."

Tensions were building early, then appeared to snap after a Revolution counterattack was short-circuited as Andy Dorman appeared to have been tripped in the center circle. Seconds later, John was cautioned (39th) after a slide tackle on Steele in front of the Revolution bench. Several players moved to the scene, Stokes running from central defense to make contact with a Revolution player, and Carolina defender Caleb Norkus falling to the ground.

After nearly two minutes, Moody cautioned Stokes, then the teams set up for a free kick. Before the kick was taken, Moody ejected Edozien and Joseph. Nearly five minutes after John's foul, action resumed.

Then, after Moody assigned four minutes of added time, Larentowicz tied the score and Cristman nearly broke the tie, taking a lofted ball from James Riley and having a point-blank shot saved, then scuffing the rebound wide of an open net.

"It was our lack of concentration in the final third and their good positioning in the first half," Noonan said. "Once it opened up, we were bound to get chances. [Niassey] made a good run on the right flank and Adam [Cristman] saw me and was unselfish in getting me the ball."

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