FOXBOROUGH -- The Revolution set themselves up for success earlier this month, overtaking the Chicago Fire, then clinching second place and home-field advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in the last game of the regular season.
And the Revolution capitalized, advancing to next weekend's Eastern Conference title game by defeating the Fire last night, overcoming a two-goal deficit in the two-game, total-goals series for a 2-1 win followed by penalty-kick success in which Matt Reis saved two Chicago shots and converted once.
Goals by Taylor Twellman (41st minute) and Pat Noonan (58th) tied the overall score following Chicago's 1-0 win last Sunday and Nate Jaqua's 18th-minute goal last night. But the Revolution, performing without Clint Dempsey (right ankle) and Shalrie Joseph (suspended) limped into the 30-minute extra time session with several starters out or injured. Twellman concluded the second half of overtime as a defensive midfielder; Noonan played the final 75 minutes of the game 18 days after undergoing hernia surgery; and midfielder Daniel Hernandez made his first start since May 6.
"We fully deserved to [advance] ," said Revolution coach Steve Nicol, whose team will play for the Eastern Conference championship for the fifth straight season. "Their goalkeeper [Matt Pickens] was the man of the match in both games; that tells the whole story.
"We had injuries and we were switching things around [in overtime]. But we were getting balls in all along and we missed chances. Other than that we were running out of steam. Most of the time the game was in our hands."
The Revolution won the penalty-kick shootout, 4-2, at "The Fort" end of the field in front of the most demonstrative supporters. Reis went to his left to block Thiago's opening penalty kick, then Jose Cancela slammed a low shot as Pickens dove right. Diego Gutierrez converted, then Reis sent a shot under the bar to maintain the edge. Andy Herron and Noonan each scored before Reis dived right to stop Ivan Guerrero's low shot. Twellman then lashed his kick into the left side netting, and jumped into the arms of Reis in celebration.
"I lost my penalty kick duty in 2003 when I got kicked in the face," Twellman said. "So I am always looking forward to taking them. I just tried to hit it hard.
"Everyone did their job. I respect what defensive midfielders have to do. Guys were cramping up, so I went in there, and one thing I'll do is slide and get balls."
The Revolution set the tone from the opening minute. Andy Dorman advanced into the penalty area and fired a hard shot at Pickens 20 seconds into the contest. The Revolution set a hard-charging tone, but appeared frustrated in the early going and referee Jair Marrufo issued cautions to Jeff Larentowicz (10th) and Hernandez (14th).
And the Fire took lead after picking off a throw from Reis at the halfway line, then attacking the Revolution's left side. Justin Mapp slipped past Hernandez and Avery John, right-footing for Jaqua to finish ahead of Larentowicz at the near post.
And the Revolution squandered chances. Twellman, unmarked on the edge of the goal area, headed wide off a Jay Heaps cross in the 21st minute and off the post from a Joe Franchino cross in the first minute of the second half.
But the Revolution had regained momentum on Twellman's goal. Franchino started the sequence, winning a corner off a half-volley attempt then centering through an Andy Dorman dummy for Twellman to convert a low shot from 15 yards.
Noonan, playing for the first time since Sept. 9, scored following another Heaps cross which was headed by Twellman to Steve Ralston, who found Franchino near the penalty spot. Pickens stopped Franchino's one-timer, the ball going straight to Noonan for his second goal of the season.
The Revolution won the substitution battle, Noonan replacing Jose Manuel Abundis after halftime, and Cancela and Khano Smith making contributions. But the Fire retaliated with Brazilian Thiago in place of Chris Rolfe in the 65th minute, the move leading to a much stronger possession game and several good chances off corners.
Cancela nearly finished a touch from Noonan following a Twellman head-on in the third minute of extra time. Cancela sent the shot to the left post, Pickens making a diving, right-hand deflection for a corner. Four minutes later, Smith broke through, slamming a shot from the edge of the penalty area which Pickens tipped over the bar. But the Revolution soon faded.
And the Fire had the best threats after that, Reis making a save on Herron following a Calen Carr knockdown seconds before Marrufo whistled the end of the first extra time period. Then, Herrron went wide with a left-foot shot with Reis out of the goal, having missed a through a ball near the edge of the penalty area in the 110th minute.###