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6. MLS COUNTDOWN: Revs roll through a rocky, yet perfect, preseason
March 29th, 2007 8:23PM

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By Ridge Mahoney


Hernia surgery for Pat Noonan. A dislocated shoulder suffered while surfing for Michael Parkhurst. Midfield stud Shalrie Joseph demanding a trade after contract talks stalled. Joey Franchino leaving the team during a preseason trip to New Orleans for "personal reasons."

If any good team has struggled through a rough preseason, it's New England. Last year's MLS Cup finalist is beginning to look like this year's train wreck. The departure of Clint Dempsey to English club Fulham, as it turned out, was only the first of many troubles for Coach Steve Nicol.

Yet the Revs zipped through their preseason scheduled a perfect 6-0-0, beating Honduran club Olimpia along the way. Nicol has instilled some depth in his squad the past two years and that process continued with draft pick Adam Cristman scoring five goals in preseason and Arsene Oka netting three.

The hole on the left side of midfield vacated by Franchino can be filled by Khano Smith or Marshall Leonard, and James Riley is one of several options if Parkhurst isn't available. Avery John can also slide into the middle. With Dempsey gone, Andy Dorman - who led the team last year with 10 assists - is among those being counted on to spark the attack.

"We're actively looking to fill that spot, so it's up to the guys that we have, the young guys and Andy Dorman, to make it their own spot," says Nicol. "Then we don't have to find somebody."

New England management has kept mostly intact a squad that reached MLS Cup last November, the third such accomplishment in the past five seasons. But all three have ended in the same way, in defeat. After overtime losses in 2002 and 2005, last November the Revs lost on penalties to Houston after finishing 120 minutes of play tied, 1-1.

A memorable upset of D.C. United at RFK Stadium in the Eastern Conference final led not to the ultimate prize, but rather yet another disappointment.

"That was our best final of the three," says Twellman, who scored in overtime for a 1-0 Revs lead that lasted less than two minutes. "Early on, Houston had a chance, I had a chance in the first half. It could have been a high-scoring game, but finals are different games. Different things happen.

"We were all a little frustrated but we've got to get it out of our minds and start like we did in '06. We got back to the final and we've got to do it again."

If Noonan can shake off the injury bug that limited him to 14 games last year - and he's not off to a very good start -- the Revs could be just as potent in a much different fashion. Playing 21 games in 2005, Noonan's numbers of eight goals and seven assists were slightly better than what Dempsey produced in the same number of games last season.

"I think Pat and Taylor play well together. That's why we wanted to re-sign him," says Nicol of a deal believed to be worth about $200,000, more than double Noonan's previous salary. "I think Pat could play behind the front two as well, but at this time with the squad we have, Taylor and Pat are going to be our two strikers."

The Revs conceded a league-lowest 35 goals last year, yet were also among the leaders in ties with 12, perhaps because they scored just 39. Of the eight playoff teams, only Colorado scored fewer goals. Keeper Matt Reis and defender Parkhurst lead a resilient defense, Joseph anchors a solid midfield. How far they go will depend on scoring goals.

"I can't believe in my five years I've had three chances, so you can only hope for more," says Twellman, who has scored 75 goals in his five MLS seasons and under a new contract will earn just under $400,000 this season and next. "Sooner or later it's going to happen for us, just rather sooner than later."

NEW ENGLAND PRESEASON ROSTER
Goalkeepers
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)
1 Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
12 Doug Warren (New England Revolution)
24 Brad Knighton (UNC Wilmington)
Defenders
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)

4 Avery John (New England Revolution)
6 Jay Heaps (New England Revolution)
8 Joe Franchino (New England Revolution)
15 Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution)
16 James Riley (New England Revolution)
17 Gary Flood (Hofstra Univ.)
19 Tony Lochhead (New England Revolution)
Midfielders
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)
2 Amaechi Igwe (Santa Clara Univ.)
3 Daniel Hernandez (New England Revolution)
13 Jeff Larentowicz (New England Revolution)
14 Steve Ralston (New England Revolution)
21 Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution)
22 Marshall Leonard (New England Revolution)
23 Miguel Gonzalez (New England Revolution)
25 Andy Dorman (New England Revolution)
27 Wells Thompson (Wake Forest Univ.)
30 Ryan Solle (Wake Forest Univ.)
32 Arsene Oka (New England Revolution)
Forwards
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)

5 Willie Sims (New England Revolution)
7 Adam Cristman (Univ. of Virginia)
11 Pat Noonan (New England Revolution)
18 Khano Smith (New England Revolution)
20 Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)
28 Chris Loftus (Duke Univ.)


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