New England Soccer Today

A Game to Remember

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Last winter, in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, I stopped inside one of Faneuil Hall’s sports stores purely out of curiosity. The gigantic, 70-foot tree outside and the bitter cold weren’t reminding me that I needed to buy more presents ahead of the 25th – promise.

It’s amazing to me how a city with five major sports teams mostly ignores the Revolution. True to form, this store had zero soccer. The colors of the Celtics and Red Sox apparel that peppered the walls gave the store an accidental yuletide feel while the blue Patriots gear and black and gold Bruins jerseys cemented home the fact that the Revolution sometimes seem like a visiting team in their own home.

But what truly puzzled me were the contents of the book “Boston’s 100 Greatest Games” by Rob Sneddon, which I found on one of the store’s shelves. Naturally, this book was chalk full of classic stories about Boston’s beloved baseball, football, basketball, and hockey teams. It even included Boston College’s win over the University of Miami in 1984, the game in which Doug Flutie threw his miracle “Hail Mary” pass.

But no Revolution.

Nothing about their come-from-behind playoff victory against Chicago in 2006. Or Taylor Twellman scoring his 100th and 101st career goals in 2009. Or Twellman’s first international goal with the U.S. in a 2005 World Cup qualifier in Foxborough. Or the Revolution’s conference final victory over the Columbus Crew in 2002, which sent them to their first MLS Cup. Or even former Revolution star Joe-Max Moore scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over Jamaica back in the old Foxboro Stadium in 2001 to clinch a spot for the U.S. in the 2002 World Cup.

In response, I’m going to write now about what is, according to me, the greatest Boston game of all-time, in hopes of both amending a tragic error and bringing back a fond memory.

The day was Oct. 29, 2005.

The Revolution had just concluded their best-ever season, finishing atop the Eastern Conference table on the backs of stellar year-long performances by Golden Boot winner Taylor Twellman, the ever-dynamic Clint Dempsey, the midfield bully Shalrie Joseph, the cerebral sweeper and then rookie Michael Parkhurst, the classy and savvy Steve Ralston, and Batman without the cape himself: Matt Reis. Then-head coach Steve Nicol had truly gotten the best out of these players—and their supporting cast—all season long.

But the Revolution had faltered to begin the playoffs. In the first leg of their two-game, aggregate goal conference semifinal series, they suffered a 1-0 loss at Giants Stadium to the former New York Metrostars. Amado Guevara rifled a shot from about 25 yards out past Reis to give the Metrostars a manageable—yet seemingly gigantic—advantage. The Revolution’s play in that game wasn’t up to par with what they’d provided for most of the season. There just wasn’t much oomph.

This set the stage for a memorable do-or-die performance at Gillette Stadium.

Where was I? Not at the game. I was at home, in Medford, watching on television. I had tickets—I had even driven past the stadium—but I would watch this one from my couch with my mom and dad. Not going is still one of my greatest regrets.

Earlier in the evening I was on my way back from fencing practice in Warren, RI, which enabled me to drive by Foxborough. But snow was in the forecast and my mom didn’t want my dad and I venturing out into the potentially hazardous weather. Understand that this was no flurry. In Boston, it can snow as early as July (as it did in 1955) and as late as June (as it did in 1952), according to NOAA. This wasn’t a nor’easter, but it certainly wasn’t weather to watch or play a soccer game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was 34 degrees, barely above freezing. The field needed to be plowed before the game, especially the penalty area, center circle, and sidelines. Still, the playing surface was extra slick. It looked more like the rink at the Boston Garden than a grass field. It looked flat out miserable to play on. Both teams wore long sleeve jerseys and gloves. The Revolution, braving the elements, needed just one goal to tie the game and force overtime.

Just one goal.

The Revolution started the game with more energy than they in the first leg. The snow and bitter cold weather appeared to be just painted on the scene, not affecting the play, even though it surely added its fair amount of challenges to running, passing, dribbling, and shooting.

Shalrie Joseph sent a bouncing shot on frame early in the first half that Metrostars goalkeeper Tony Meola bobbled and let out for a corner kick. The snow played a part in that. It should have been an easy catch.

Pat Noonan volleyed wide of goal shortly after that. He then had the game’s first major chance, a low drive to the far post, hit with lots of pace, that Meola dropped down to knock away. Later in the half, in the 30th minute, Daniel Hernandez crossed into the penalty area, the ball coming off the hand of Jeff Agoos. Brian Hall, the match referee who had been named Referee of the Year by the league one week before, did not award a penalty kick even though the linesman raised his flag. Hernandez was given a yellow card for protesting.

Just one goal.

The Revolution went into half time with more of the ball and having created more chances, but the Metrostars maintained their lead. The likes of Joseph, Ralston, Twellman, and Dempsey had yet to make an impact. That would change.

Ralston shot high and also missed a seemingly easy tap-in off a Khano Smith cross early in half two. Then Dempsey, in prime position, lashed out at the ball after it generously fell to him following a botched clearance in the 58th minute. The ball rolled, with Meola motionless, toward the net. Then—clang! Off the post.

Just one goal.


Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Brad Feldman, the Revolution’s longtime announcer, struck a nerve when he added “The Revs are getting closer and closer” during his broadcast after Dempsey’s drive hit the woodwork. Feldman often causes what he calls “the curse of the announcer” by which he’ll say something on air only to have the exact opposite thing happen moments later. This occurs still today. He’ll say something positive about the Revolution, then, seconds later, they will concede a goal. I am a fan of Feldman and all of his on-air mannerisms. Huge fan. I have been for years. I even stopped him in the Gillette Stadium parking lot when I was 11 to tell him I wanted to cover soccer just like he did some day. But sometimes I wish he could stay silent.

The curse of the announcer strikes again.

Following the clearance on Dempsey’s strike, the ball floated toward the sideline on the near side of the field. Parkhurst appeared to have the ball tracked down. But unexpectedly, the ball took a skip off the battered, snowy, wet, slick, overworn grass and not ideal surface toward Youri Djourkaeff. He was clean through on Reis—Djorkaeff, the man who had plagued the Revolution to the tune of three goals in the regular season. The winner of 1998 World Cup made no mistake. He ran into the penalty area with no one around him and chipped the ball over Reis, his shot nestling into the back of the net to give New York a 2-0 aggregate lead.

Goals like this are said to be “against the run of play.” I’m careful about this expression. If a goal is truly against the run of play, that means a team can shake it off and get back to the task at hand. In this case, one goal could put the Revolution back in the game and lead to another, and another–even with the clock mercilessly ticking away.

Just one goal.

Jose Cancela, the Costa Rica-born playmaker, entered the game in the 62nd minute for Hernandez. That move helped the Revolution find their finishing touch. It didn’t take long for Cancela to find his groove. In the 68th minute, Twellman, who had been silent until that point, chested down a pass in the penalty area that allowed the ball to fall to Cancela. The midfielder slapped it with his right foot, sending the ball inside the far post to cut the Metrostars’ lead in half and put the Revolution within one.

Just one goal.

Changes everything.

Cancela was at it again just five minutes later. This time he served a corner kick to the back post, where Noonan rose above teenager Michael Bradley to flick the ball into the side of the net for the equalizer. The momentum had shifted. Cancela’s injection into the game was the magic touch. Now on level terms, the Revolution could either settle for a tie in regulation and risk overtime or continue pushing for the win. They chose the latter.

The winning goal came from an unlikely source. Khano Smith, one of the Revolution’s most maddeningly inconsistent players, would score the game-winner. He was having a good game—as would happen throughout the season, only for his level to drop in the games that followed. But this time Smith was on his game. His speed and pace had devastated the Metrostars throughout the night. His passes and crosses were on point. He was a time bomb. It was only a matter of time before he would find his golden strike.


Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

It was the 83rd minute. Dempsey had the ball in midfield, and sent it through the middle for Twellman. Twellman was tackled off the ball, allowing the pass to run to the left side of the field for Smith. Hall allowed play to continue though Twellman had been fouled—a decision that worked in favor of the Revolution.

Smith entered the box with the ball on his left foot. He had Noonan available at the back post. But he instead chose to be selfish and shoot—something he had uncharacteristically not done all game long. Noonan’s hands went up in disbelief and frustration the moment the ball left Smith’s foot. Noonan was, in truth, in a better position. But less than a second later Noonan’s arms spread out in celebratory fashion. Smith’s shot, from a near impossible angle, kissed the inside of the net at the far post and dropped into the goal. 3-2. The comeback was complete.

With their playoff lives on the line, the Metrostars changed their tune and decided to push up into the attack. The Revolution back line was sophisticated enough to handle the added pressure, but not without some nervous moments. Reis dropped low to stop a Guevara drive in the 87th minute and Joseph shortly after headed a Djorkaeff header via a cross by Seth Stammler off the line.

Djorkaeff looked as if he was trying to put the team on his back in the waning minutes, but was stopped at every angle. In stoppage time, he made a darting run toward the box, but was stopped by Jay Heaps, who made an inch-perfect tackle. In the process though, Smith was injured, had to be stretchered off, and the Revolution continued with just 10 players on the field. Smith was given a hero’s ovation as he left the game, an applause that the crowd of 9,581 continued once Hall’s final whistle blew.

Thus ended the greatest Boston sports game of all time. The Revolution were understandably worn out from the game, which showed as they were outplayed by the Chicago Fire one week later in the conference final. Still, the Revolution prevailed and advanced to the MLS Cup where they eventually fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy. But the ride to get there was a nice consolation prize.

Perhaps one day Sneddon and his colleagues will find it in their hearts to notice the Revolution. Accomplishments like the 2005 snow battle versus the Metrostars are part of local sports lore. Or at least it should be. It happened, even if it went unnoticed by many.

As the Revolution gear up for another playoff run, which kicks off Saturday in Columbus, I wonder if winning a championship this year will have much of an effect on the average Bostonian’s perception of their fifth major franchise. By Christmas, will they be part of an illustrious club that includes the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics? If so, will they become more mainstream? Stories like the one you’ve just read prove that they’re worthy of inclusion, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

One Comment

Leave a Reply