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Revolution kick aside a familiar foe, advance to semifinal

FOXBOROUGH -- The Revolution have more than proven themselves against the MetroStars. Their 1-1 tie with the MetroStars before 14,823 at Gillette Stadium yesterday extended their unbeaten streak to nine games and moved the Revolution within a game of a second successive MLS Cup appearance.

The Revolution, who have not lost since a 2-1 defeat at San Jose Sept. 7, will visit Chicago in the Eastern Conference final Friday night, the winner advancing to the title game Nov. 23 in Carson, Calif.

This was the fourth successive Revolution-MetroStars meeting, including the final two matches of the regular season, the Revolution winning the first three by a combined score of 9-3. Now the Revolution will be matched against a team other than the MetroStars for the first time since Oct. 11.

Pat Noonan provided the Revolution with the lead in the 21st minute, starting the move by finding Jose Carlos Cancela, then finishing after a dummy from Dario Fabbro left the defense off balance. That increased the Revolution advantage to three goals after a 2-0 victory in the first leg of the aggregate-goals series, and virtually ensured they would advance. It was Noonan's 12th goal, his ninth in six games against the MetroStars.

But the MetroStars provided some drama, tying the score during first-half injury time as Amado Guevara converted a penalty kick. The tension that play created was quickly defused by coach Steve Nicol in the Revolution room.

"At halftime, we were fired up in here," Revolution defender Jay Heaps said. "I was upset. But we knew if we played like that in the second half, we would be all right. [Nicol] told us that even if we were upset, we had to look at the situation and not let it get to us, because we were really still up, two-zero."

The Revolution's playoff run is similar to last season's finish, but the team seemed to falter toward the end, winning only once in the last four playoff games. Now, though, the Revolution are controlling the tempo of matches, constantly threatening offensively, and relieving the pressure from the defense.

The Fabbro-Noonan combination was again effective, and the Cancela-Shalrie Joseph midfield pairing was dominant. Jason Moore, replacing Brian Kamler (hamstring), added an offensive threat on the left wing to augment Steve Ralston's play on the right. Marshall Leonard again filled in well for Joe Franchino (quadriceps) at left back. Defensive regulars Heaps, Carlos Llamosa, and Rusty Pierce were well-positioned to minimize the involvement of goalkeeper Adin Brown.

Llamosa was cautioned for dissent after a collision with Mike Magee, referee Ali Saheli awarding the penalty kick.

"I was frustrated and disappointed because I don't think that was a foul," Llamosa said. "We had just had [Cancela] fouled in the box. But I wasn't worried, because we were playing better than New York at the time."

The Revolution were dominant in the first half, barely missing on several chances after Noonan's goal. The MetroStars added Mark Lisi to the midfield and went to a 3-5-2 formation in the second half. The change made the MetroStars more dynamic offensively, and substitute Mike Nugent went in alone on Brown while the Revolution appealed for offside in the 59th minute, but Nugent shot wide to the left. Guevara shot left-footed just wide and Clint Mathis headed over the bar.

But the Revolution defenders were not under siege, though the MetroStars aggressively went forward. Joseph short-circuited several MetroStar plays through midfield, and Llamosa kept the defense well-positioned.

"The playoffs and regular season are different, and we are a different team in the playoffs," Ralston said. "But we know that in the playoffs, anything can happen. We have confidence and we feel like we can't lose. We are not giving up much defensively, we are compact defensively, and guys are taking their chances well.

"The best teams in the league, D.C. United and Chicago, always had the same core group of guys who played together for a while. We have the same core group of guys as last year and we have played together for a while now. It took awhile for [Cancela] to fit in, but now guys understand his game. Now, we have grasped the system [Nicol] was hoping we would play from the beginning of the season. We are not scared of any team and we expect to win every game we play."

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