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A case of deja blue

Revolution come up empty again in MLS Cup OT loss

FRISCO, Texas -- The Revolution finally ran out of gas, and used up their supply of healing elixirs and last-second comebacks. After sprinting through their best season ever, the Revolution hobbled to a 1-0 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy for the second time in an MLS Cup final yesterday.

Though the Revolution defended well against Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones, they faltered in the second minute of injury time in the first half of extra time, surrendering a soft corner that was volleyed in by Guillermo ''Pando" Ramirez.

''We didn't move the ball quickly and they defended well as a unit and were hard to break down, and broke on us," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said of the Galaxy's counterattacking tactics. ''That was the pattern of the game. We went at it the best we could but couldn't break them down."

The Revolution, who also lost to the Galaxy, 1-0, in overtime, in the 2002 MLS Cup, appeared to be a half-step slow and slightly off with their timing on passes, and lacked their tag-team left wing combination of Marshall Leonard (left hamstring) and Khano Smith (left knee bruise). James Riley filled in effectively but the Revolution concluded the match with Ryan Latham playing outside midfield in his first appearance since July 27.

Jose ''Pepe" Cancela sparked the Revolution as a second-half substitute for Pat Noonan, moving into midfield as Clint Dempsey joined Taylor Twellman at striker. Shalrie Joseph sent an open header off a corner high midway through the first half, but the Revolution offense bogged down until Cancela entered the match. Cancela had the Revolution's best shots on goal, a half-volley that was deflected by goalkeeper Kevin Hartman in the 99th minute and a close-in try off a Dempsey layoff that was headed out by defender Ugo Ihemelu after the 120th minute.

''We were disappointed with what we did in the first half," Nicol said, ''but we wanted consistency, to play like we played all season, and we wanted to give that time to see if it would happen or not. We gave it 15 minutes of the second half. We wanted to put Clint up top to change the look a wee bit. Unfortunately, Pat was the guy who had to come out."

The Galaxy's main threats were on counterattacks led by Donovan and quick strikes on the right wing through Chris Albright and Jones. The Galaxy goal, though, was conjured out of a Riley misplay, as he twice got to the ball but could only send it backward, surrendering a corner. Donovan's curling kick was punched away by Reis from the edge of the goal area at the far post, the ball going directly to Ramirez, who jabbed a volley into an open net, Reis recovering too late. The Galaxy nearly scored again in the 115th minute, Reis stopping point-blank shots from Donovan and Gomez.

But the Revolution, who had scored 13 goals after the 85th minute in games this season, continued attacking in a wild finish after referee Kevin Stott added four-plus minutes of injury time. At the left edge of the goal area, Dempsey laid off to Cancela, whose low shot was deflected barely wide by Ihemelu. Cancela then sent the corner kick that Joseph headed off a defender and over the net for another corner. The Galaxy then countered, Reis diverting Brazilian substitute Naldo near the halfway line, then retreating nearly 60 yards into the goal area to grab Ramirez's shot.

''They played physical and got the job done," Dempsey said of the Galaxy. ''We were battling just to get anything going. It is very frustrating because we were able to score a lot of goals but we are not a team that is too difficult to figure out. The team showed its character in battling through the MetroStars [a 3-2 total-goals win] and Chicago [a 1-0 win]. It is a tough pill to swallow because we feel we are the team that should have won it. We just have to come back and turn things around next year."

The Revolution attempted to set a physical tone, Jay Heaps body-checking Donovan out of bounds 20 seconds into the match. Daniel Hernandez (15th minute), Joe Franchino (22d), and Joseph (37th) were cautioned in the first half and Riley (54th) and Heaps (76th) were cautioned in the second half. Five Galaxy players received yellow cards as the teams shattered the MLS Cup record of five cautions.

''I am a huge fan of New England and I really liked watching them play all season," Hartman said. ''They have excellent players and they have a yeoman-like attitude. They did everything they could do to win. We recognized their strengths and tried to neutralize them.

''It shows there is a flaw to the playoff system, that a team can sort of limp in and win it. But it's all about peaking at the right time. We definitely learned from our mistakes, and going through the doldrums of June and July was a learning experience."

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