The New England Revolution watched their shutout streak slip away on Saturday night as they fell 4-3 to the Vancouver Whitecaps in British Columbia. The match was dramatic and full of goals, though marred by an early red card and some shockingly terrible officiating.
The first half was whacky and dramatic. After going up 2-0 inside of 20 minutes, the Revs looked to be cruising to another result and the Whitecaps were in shambles. Andrew Farrell's 23rd-minute red card changed everything, by halftime it was 3-2 in favor of the Caps.
The second half started a bit slower as the Revs settled into a rhythm at ten men and began to stifle Vancouver. They nearly stole an equalizer in the 58th minute when a Darrius Barnes long throw found the head of Stephen McCarthy in the box. The big center-back's flick-on found Diego Fagundez, but he couldn't get enough on his header and it was easily caught by Brad Knighton.
Kenny Miller scored what looked to be the icing on the cake in the 68th minute with an absolutely incredible finish. He collected a long ball in full flight toward goal, but stopped short as it bounded up at him. With Barnes flying by him and then setting up in position between him and the goal, Miller chested the ball down and stroked an incredible volley that caught Bobby Shuttleworth off his line and dipped into the top corner.
It got interesting in the 84th minute when the Revs scored a third. Barnes played an excellent slide-rule pass on the floor to Dimitry Imbongo. Imbongo, who had replaced Fagundez in the 69th minute, took a touch and held off Carlyle Mitchell with a great show of strength, and absolutely blasted a shot past Knighton to give New England a lifeline.
New England could have won it late on two chances in stoppage time. First, a long free kick from Bobby Shuttleworth was cleared to the top of the box by Knighton, but Rowe got to the rebound. He attempted to volley into an open net but fired high and wide. Then, at the very end of the match, Ryan Guy earned a free kick from a dangerous position, and Lee Nguyen put the resulting kick on frame, but Knighton managed to save the effort.
The first 20 minutes of the match showcased a Revolution team that is lethal and complete, with a devastating offense and a titanic defense, both capable of beating just about any team in the league. Unfortunately, the red card changed all that. While it was encouraging to see the team settle in and deal with their numerical disadvantage in the second half, it was telling that they were completely disoriented for the portion of the first half that they played with ten. No team handles going down particularly well - you're playing with fewer players than the opponent, after all - but top teams at least manage to keep it together and make adjustments.
The Revs looked unable to make those adjustments without the halftime break to help them. Whether or not the penalty and red card call was soft - and there is certainly an argument to be made that Miller embellished to get the call - the fact is that it happened and New England needed to respond. Instead, they gave up two more soft goals on top of the penalty. That's a mental issue that Jay Heaps needs to address, and fast. There's nothing to say that this will be the last time the Revs have to play a long stretch down a man.
New England has next week off in MLS action, and will face D.C. in the Open Cup on June 26th.