Despite their status as two of the original 10 clubs in Major League Soccer and their frequent meetings in league play over the course of two decades, FC Dallas and New England Revolution have met just once in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Their one previous meeting – like the decisive meeting ahead at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Univision Deportes) – came in the final nearly a decade ago.
Several of the participants on both sides shared their memories of that fateful night in Frisco back in 2007. Their recollections in this oral history start with the buildup to the Revolution’s 3-2 victory on that night and carry all the way through to what it means nearly a decade later.
After experiencing the disappointment of losing MLS Cup in 2005 and 2006, New England challenged on two fronts in 2007. Their status as a MLS Cup contender came as no surprise given their run to the previous two finals. The run through the Open Cup emerged from a somewhat different place, but their procession through the tournament -- including a rare quarterfinal home game at Gillette Stadium and the willingness to lean on the experienced figures more frequently during the course of the tournament -- reflected the desire to finally secure the club’s first trophy.
New England forward Taylor Twellman: “2007 was an interesting year. There was a real belief in our locker room that we were going to win. We were going to win MLS Cup, we were going to win Open Cup. Supporters’ Shield -- to be completely honest – never had that big of a feel then. We didn’t really care about it. I know none of us talked about it in the locker room. But there was a feeling when we got to the semifinal of the Open Cup.”
New England midfielder Wells Thompson: “It was such a packed team, an all-star team. A bunch of those guys were just great players: Twellman, [Andy] Dorman, [Steve] Ralston, Shalrie [Joseph], [Jay] Heaps. It was just awesome and it was fun to be a part of it.”
FC Dallas assistant coach Marco Ferruzzi: “I was going back through their roster from that game and a good majority of that starting lineup is in the coaching ranks now. They all had good careers, but you’ve got [Matt] Reis, [Pat] Noonan and Ralston, and obviously Heaps is coaching New England. They all had good careers. Twellman was on that squad. They were coming from two good runs to the final. At that time, they had a very congealed team. They were well worked and well drilled. They knew each other well. They had good quality. They certainly did.”
Twellman: “That Open Cup run was interesting. We played a game at Gillette Stadium. It was a quarterfinal [against then USL-2 team Harrisburg City Islanders] and there were like 2,000 people there. … We won that game and got to the semifinals. We had the feeling. We were playing Carolina. We had a feeling that something was going to happen. I didn’t play in the semifinal -- I think I was away at Copa America. We were missing a couple of players for that game. And then we make the final and we go to Dallas. And I remember all of us saying, ‘Are we really going to play a third cup final at Pizza Hut Park?’” [The 2005 and 2006 MLS Cup Finals were played at the new, soccer-specific venue in Frisco, Texas]
FC Dallas presented its own set of challenges beyond its home stadium. Steve Morrow’s team boasted several familiar faces -- including the prolific Carlos Ruiz and current MLS regulars Arturo Alvarez, Clarence Goodson, Dax McCarty, Drew Moor and Dominic Oduro -- and leaned on its blend of experience and youth to reach the final. FCD carried its own burdens and demons into that game as it attempted to win the Open Cup for the second time.
New England forward Pat Noonan: “They had some quality and some youth on that team. There was obviously a reason that they were in that final. It’s amazing to see that there are players who are still in MLS from that game.”
Ferruzzi: “We had a lot of guys who moved on and who are still figurative players with their clubs. Our attack was pretty scary at times. One of the unsung heroes was Abe Thompson. Here was a guy who was pretty unheralded when you put him up against the likes of Eddie Johnson [who left FCD in 2005] and Carlos Ruiz, but he was knocking goals in as well. Arturo Alvarez -- he’s back in the league now with Chicago -- was pretty dangerous, too. There are guys from that era who are still making a good career out of it. There were days when that group just clicked and they were literally unstoppable. They were fun to watch and fun to work with.”
FC Dallas defender Drew Moor: “We’d been in the final two seasons before at LA Galaxy and lost, I think on a Herculez Gomez goal. I remember thinking against New England, that we were at home and that it was an important trophy. It’s an important trophy for FC Dallas because it has Lamar Hunt’s name on it.”
Ferruzzi: “Once you’ve gone through all of those battles and you’re at home for the final, you’re extremely heightened for that match. The guys were having a great run through that tournament. Pescadito [Carlos Ruiz] and Arturo Alvarez, I think between the two of them, they had three or four goals apiece. Abe Thompson scored a critical goal up in Seattle [to win the semifinal]. All of those things stick out.”
Moor: “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win it after losing it two seasons before.”
The anticipation on both sides led to an open and compelling first half at Pizza Hut Park, particularly with influential Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph ruled out through suspension. The two sides shared three goals, while FC Dallas made an enforced change in defense when Alex Yi sustained a serious head injury early.
Twellman: “We went to Dallas. I remember Carlos Ruiz. I remember they had a really good team, but we were all over them early. They got back into it. It was actually a really good game.”
Noonan: “I do remember the first goal. I couldn’t remember at first whether it was me or Taylor, to be honest with you, but it ended up being my goal in the game. It was on a cross from [Steve] Ralston. Taylor’s making a near-post run. It was a good delivery by Steve. Taylor couldn’t catch up with the cross, but it found me on the back post. It hit off my body and I was able to tap it in.”
New England goalkeeper Matt Reis: “When I watched the tape again, I remembered Alvarez’s goal [to equalize at 1-1]. He tried that [outside of the foot shot] again the next time we played Dallas. I saved that one, at least.”
Twellman: “I remember the corner kick [for the second goal]. I remember Noonan and I had a talk and I said, ‘Why don’t we switch up our runs?’ We laugh about it to this day: I went far post, he went near post.”
Noonan: “You know, now that you mention it, I remember at the time thinking I usually made a back post run. Taylor was a guy that we wanted in front of goal based on his quality in the air. But on that play, I ran to the near post and redirected it and it fell to him. It worked out for us.”
New England entered halftime with a 2-1 lead after Noonan scored the opener, Alvarez replied and Twellman scored right before the break. The match appeared finely poised until an unlikely hero emerged to give the Revolution a 3-1 lead.
Thompson: “Honestly, I was in the right place at the right time. … I was just right outside the six-yard box. All I had to do was slot it home. I was playing out on the right side. I was just following the play up. I just ended up being in the right spot and ended up scoring. Yeah, I remember it. I can see it in my mind.”
Ferruzzi: “That last goal by Thompson was a heartbreaker. I remember that goal more than anything. He just kind of came in on the weak side and tapped one in. That one just left you with a sinking feeling.”
Moor: “They’d made it to the two MLS Cup finals in the two previous seasons. They knew how to manage it. It could have made the difference when you go on the road and beat us in an Open Cup final.”
FC Dallas forward Abe Thompson scored in the 64th minute to set up a frenetic finish, but New England held out to claim a 3-2 victory and secure the first major title in the club’s history. It proved a cathartic moment for the visitors and a painful denouement for the hosts.
Reis: “Just having all of the former finals and losing at that park so many times and finally getting to win something, a trophy, in Frisco is the thing that I remember the most.”
Ferruzzi: “Playing the final and especially hosting the final in our stadium, the emotions were really high. We felt like we’d done everything to bring home what we set out to do in that tournament for our ownership, for our club and for our fans. There’s nothing worse than picking up a runners’ up medal in your own stadium after that game. There were a lot of heavy hearts and heavy emotions after that game.”
Twellman: “I remember celebrating the Open Cup. I remember all of us having a real sense of finally that we’ve done something we should have done. We were flying to Chicago for the MLS game on the weekend. We had an extra night in Dallas, so we stayed there. All of us went out. We had a good night out. It was good. It was a time when - after it, when we went to Chicago and maybe we were exhausted and we had partied a little too much -- and I think all of us we realized that we could do a double here. Who would have thought you’d lose three MLS Cups and the year you win, you win the double? Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
The next few weeks led to frustration for both teams. FCD finished third in the Western Conference and lost to Houston in the Western Conference semifinals. New England used the Open Cup win to fuel another playoff run, but the Revs suffered their third straight MLS Cup defeat -- and their second straight setback to the Dynamo -- at RFK Stadium in November.
Moor: “We lost to our rivals, Houston, in the playoffs that season. It was a disappointing ending to the Open Cup and a disappointing ending to the playoffs.
New England defender Jay Heaps: “What I do remember is that it was a really good connector. We weren’t playing all that well. I remember us taking a loss on the road. We used the Open Cup as a moment to come together. I really thought it solidified our run to MLS Cup that year. It was good to win a final. We’d been together so long. It was really good to win a final.”
Twellman: “When you think of the five -- I’d say six -- strong years under Stevie, for some reason, something always clicked in the month of September. In 2002, it was late August, but my point is that the last six-to-eight weeks of every season under Steve Nicol, we hit our stride, for whatever reason. And, that year, Open Cup jumpstarted it, to be honest. It rejuvenated the confidence. I don’t care who you are, the majority of that locker room -- Steve Ralston, Joey Franchino, Jay Heaps and myself -- we had lost three MLS Cups at that point. It takes a toll.”
Noonan: “There were high expectations with that group. We were very confident. We had our staff and our players that we fielded for the better part of five years. To win a trophy, you at least walk away with something, but the expectations were to win a MLS Cup for many years. We fell short of that. That’s where a lot of the disappointment lies. At least we walked away with a trophy. When we look back at it, it’s still a trophy for the organization and a tournament we succeeded in.”
The passage of time reinforces some of those feelings, but it also provides enough distance to lend perspective on the game itself and what it meant to the players involved after all of those years.
Noonan: “You see the growth of the game in this country and within MLS, in particular. I think a lot of the players who were on the field at that time have grown with the game and the league. You can see the success and the potential in the years to come. They want to be a part of it.”
Moor: “I’m not playing in the Open Cup now with Toronto FC, but I wish I had won one of those so I could claim an Open Cup by the end of my career. I hope I still have plenty of seasons left in me, but I’m disappointed we didn’t win in 2005 or 2007. I didn’t realize how disappointed I was until 10 years later when I think back about it.”
Heaps: “We did lift that trophy. There’s no question there was a lot of heartbreak with some of those losses in MLS Cup. But it’s not easy to get to MLS Cup. To get to MLS Cup, you have to win the Eastern Conference. We won the Eastern Conference four times. That, in and of itself, is a difficult thing to do, especially with how tight the East can get at the end of the year. The Open Cup definitely registered because we got over that hump and got that championship we were seeking here.”
Reis: “As a player -- and, obviously, I’ve retired and moved on -- you look back and say that it was great to be able to challenge for all of those titles, but it was very disappointing not to get a few more of them. This one -- the one that broke the seal, the first one put in the case -- is great. To be able to do that for one of the league’s inaugural franchises, it’s a great honor.”
Thompson: “It’s interesting: I just found the poster they gave us of when we received the trophy at midfield. We’re all gathered around at midfield, lifting the trophy up. I found it recently in the closet and I was looking at it with my dad. It brought back a lot of awesome memories. Yeah, it was awesome. Any time you win a championship, any time you win anything, it’s fun.”