The New England Revolution broke one streak while continuing another as they fought to an eventful 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto on Independence Day. The Revs are still winless on the road, but were able to break their funk in Sandy, Utah after losing the previous two meetings by a combined 11-0.
Controversy dogged the match at every turn as referee Yader Reyes granted two penalties and issued two red cards. Rajko Lekic added to his meager tally by converting a 3rd minute penalty before Tierney doubled the advantage with another free-kick goal. Salt Lake replied through Will Johnson and a Saborio penalty, and then the fireworks were completed by Shalrie Joseph and Fabian Espindola, respectively.
The match kicked off to a riveting and controversial start almost directly from the first kick. In the third minute, a Matt Reis goal kick sprung Benny Feilhaber free on goal. Nat Borchers gave chase and appeared to get the ball and clear, but he was whistled for a penalty on the play instead. Because he was adjudged to have prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity, he was also shown a red card and ejected. Rajko Lekic chipped the penalty kick with class and panache, giving the Revolution an early lead for the second straight week. The call was widely derided both on the television broadcast and across social media as very incorrect.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Salt Lake immediately went back to work on New England and were able to find space and possession on the ball to generate chances. In the seventh minute, Luis Gil took a shot from outside the box that was caught easily by Reis. Andy Williams nearly equalized a minute later with a thunderous effort of his own, but the Revolution 'keeper was able to get down and smother it.
The Revs had a decent passing move in the tenth minute. Some good movement and interchange from midfield involving Pat Phelan eventually resulted in an open cross from the left by Chris Tierney that was just ahead of an onrushing Benny Feilhaber at the near post.
New England was able to double their advantage in the 16th minute with some trademark Tierney class. The Massachusetts native lined up a free kick from way out after Jamison Olave was penalized for a shoulder-charge on Shalrie Joseph. His ball was low and bending around the wall, finding the bottom right corner after RSL's wall fell apart and screened Rimando.
Olave made a rare foray forward and tried to join the attack, rocketing a shot from outside the area that Reis was able to cover up. It was Will Johnson, though, who found the goal that Salt Lake needed to halve their deficit in the 24th minute. Andy Williams flighted in a beautiful free kick that thumped the far post and deflected in front of goal, where the Canadian tapped it in unopposed while most of the Revolution defense looked on, ball-watching.
The Royals had the next chance a full 16 minutes later. A long, in-swinging corner to the far post was met by the head of Olave. His header was accurate and quick, but Reis was able to get to his left and gobble it up at the near post. Three minutes later, a long free kick found Rajko Lekic totally free in the middle of the area, but his first touch was abysmal and he just ballooned it up and out for a goal kick.
Referee Yader Reyes made himself even more of a goat in the 56th minute. RSL bombarded into the box and appeared to play in a cross and then a Saborio volley, both of which were fairly routine, when Reyes suddenly pointed to the spot. He gave a penalty for handball on Kevin Alston, and Saborio made no mistake in burying the spot kick past Reis to draw the match up.
Ten-man Salt Lake didn't look to be done at that point. Andy Williams blazed a daisy-cutter past the left post in the 61st minute as New England continued to retreat into a shell, struggling to get any possession. That was why the next goal was so unexpected and such a gut-punch for the Claret and Cobalt.
A foul just outside the corner of the box provided an opportunity for Benny Feilhaber to get a free kick in. His delivery was good, and Shalrie Joseph managed to backpedal away from Olave to flick the ball on to the far post. It cracked off the inside of the woodwork and suddenly, New England were leading again.
Ryan Cochrane joined Nat Borchers in the locker rooms in the 67th minute. He was shown a second yellow for hauling down Andy Williams. The ensuing free-kick was laid off to the right by substitute Kyle Beckerman for Will Johnson. Johnson crushed the ball low, forcing Reis to fall to his right to parry it away. With the goal gaping, an unmarked Saborio followed-up with a free header, but it bounced off the crossbar and was cleared away by Alston.
Ned Grabavoy weaved his way into the box in the 73rd minute and had a blast that was blocked by Pat Phelan. The rebound found its way out to Andy Williams, who smacked a low shot that was saved by Matt Reis. Olave nearly tied it up in the 80th minute with a header on frame that was saved well by the Revolution 'keeper.
Having the equal advantage ended up working very favorably for the Royals. In the 83rd minute, Alvaro Saborio very simply collected the ball and took a touch or two before picking out a run from substitute Fabian Espindola. The speedy Argentine was in behind the defense and made no mistake, finishing past Reis.
Despite losing the lead, New England continued to bunker down further and further as the match went on, weathering storms from Salt Lake by the seat of their pants. Numerous RSL attacks fizzled with blocked crosses and shots, and in the 90th minute Matt Reis made a save from a tight angle on an Andy Williams drive from inside the box. By the time the final whistle sounded, the match had devolved into a goal-kick contest between Reis and Rimando, and ended in a nothing-if-not-entertaining 3-3 draw.