Over a full half with a man advantage.
18 full minutes with a two-man advantage.
One stoppage time goal, and one point.
These are the statistics of failure. An 11 vs. 9 advantage should result in total dominance or, at the very least, a one-goal victory. Instead, it culminated in a tense 1-1 draw that looked like to be a horrible loss until the 3rd minute of stoppage time when Ilija Stolica saved New England the ignominy of having to explain why they couldn't score a goal against nine men.
The Revs certainly weren't the only goats on Saturday's match. Baldomero Toledo put in a typically abysmal performance in the middle, awarding the Vancouver Whitecaps an incredibly weak penalty to give them the lead in the 55th minute, and later farcically sending off A.J. Soares for a late but not dangerous tackle. In fact, that tackle was really not much different than the one that earned Ryan Cochrane a yellow card in the first half - late, missing the ball and cutting off the attacker's way forward, but not dangerous or denying a clear run at goal.
I don't want to sound like a total homer, so it's worth mentioning that some of Toledo's calls were baffling when they benefited the Revolution as well. Gershon Koffie's red card was excusable, but upon further review looked harsh, even from my perspective. Koffie had every right to the ball in his challenge and didn't look to be intentionally leading in with his elbow - again, might have been a yellow card that was over-punished. From the perspective of calls that just didn't make sense, Eric Hassli was rightfully given a yellow for elbowing Kevin Alston in the face and probably breaking his nose - but Alston was whistled for the foul and the free kick went Vancouver's way.
At the end of the day, though, Toledo is a known quantity. He has a reputation around the league for trying to make the game about him and thriving on causing controversy. He's notoriously inconsistent in his calls and has burned the Revs big time in the past. New England should have been prepared for that and, when presented with a man advantage in the first half, should have totally dominated proceedings for the rest of the game.
Read on and give us your thoughts after the jump.
The Revolution had a very positive first half for the most part. Especially in the first 25-30 minutes they seemed to have the better of play, even stringing together upwards of seven or eight passes at a time (shocking in light of recent performances). In an obviously hostile environment against a team that has shown itself wholly capable of scoring in bunches, New England's first-half effort was admirable, and if not for a brilliant reflex block on the line by Nizar Khalfan, the Revs would have gone into the break one-nil up.
Ironically, it was going a man up that seemed to have an adverse effect on the Revolution. They entered play in the second half flat as week-old warm soda and paid for it. Camilo, Hassli and company were already causing a host of problems for the Revs defense before the penalty call, and despite being at a disadvantage, by scoring the Whitecaps were really getting their just deserts. That in and of itself is a failure on the part of the Revolution, but what ensued after they gained a two-man advantage was downright appalling.
Instead of settling down, passing it around the pitch and exploiting the mismatches granted them by their numerical superiority, the Revs started getting anxious and pressing far too hard. They resorted to thumping inaccurate long passes in the direction of Zack Schilawski - who was totally overmatched aerially by the defensive combination of Michael Boxall and Alain Rochat - and trying to spring Zak Boggs or Sainey Nyassi free on the flanks. Boggs' industry was respectable but his touch was lacking, and Nyassi had one of the worst performances I've seen from him in a Revolution jersey. Nyassi's foot is where possession went to die Wednesday night. I like the idea of using him on the left so he can cut inside in theory, as it matches his skill set, but he really needs to learn to cross with his left and make better decisions for that move to be successful.
Nyassi had two key moments where his issues with decision-making were highlighted. At one moment in the first half, he launched a curling strike right at Jay Nolly that was handled pretty easily. It was well-taken; the problem was that he had three or four open options in the box begging for a cross. Zack Schilawski in particular was basically unmarked and visibly showed his frustration after the shot. On another occasion, Didier Domi was breaking forward and then sprayed the ball out wide to Nyassi near the touchline, even with the box. Domi intelligently continued his run, breaking into the box all alone. He was expecting a return ball, but it never came. Nyassi put his head down and attempted to beat Leathers on the dribble, totally missing Domi's run, much to the chagrin of the veteran fullback.
For 18 minutes the Revolution pressed, and Vancouver mopped everything up easily. The introduction of Kenny Mansally was expected to add some teeth to the attack, but Mansally also didn't have a particularly good match. His service was poor and he lost the ball repeatedly on the dribble, contributing to the Revs' inability to get the ball in the box dangerously. He took a corner or two late on and provided little by way of quality service, as well.
The spark that drove the offense would come from the unlikeliest of sources - another red card. This time it was A.J. Soares who felt the wrath of Toledo for a late but rather tame sliding challenge on Atiba Harris. Rather than making it more difficult for the Revs, this seemed to spur them on. I beseech any of you to explain to me how that makes sense. As soon as it became 10 vs. 9, it seemed like the Revolution players realized that it benefits them to take up better positions and attack in concert, rather than just wildly flinging the ball at the attacking third.
The performances of Ilija Stolica and Chris Tierney were encouraging. I wish Tierney had the confidence and ability to take on a player, but it was an incredibly refreshing change of pace to see him pick his head up and deliver a teasing cross rather than watch Nyassi kick the ball over the end line or dribble straight into Leathers's foot. Plus, that free kick he put on frame was almost a goal of the week candidate.
Stolica is an enigma at this point. He looked sharp and dangerous in his limited time on the pitch, and not just because he scored the equalizer. Given that, why was Wednesday his first match of the season? If Schilawski outplayed him in preseason to earn the starting nod, more power to him. But Stoli should be the first striker sub off the bench, and while Nicol has chosen to bring off Schilawski on some occasions this season, Stolica hasn't been the choice sub. After his goal against the Whitecaps I wouldn't be surprised to see him start against Salt Lake, or at least feature.
By the way, I want to give credit to the Caps fans at Empire Field on Wednesday night: that was a hell of a crowd. They were ear-splittingly loud even on the CSN New England broadcast and showed up over 19,000 strong to a midweek game. When's the last time we put 19,000 in Gillette even on a Saturday? Certainly makes the puny 7,114 who showed up for last weekend's draw with Portland even more embarrassing. Good work, strange Canadians, I have a lot of respect for that.
A point is a point, and we should all be pleased that the Revolution is unbeaten through the first four matches of the season. The performances in each of these matches, however, are causes for concern, and the Vancouver match only served to emphasize that. A good team can't play with a one or two-man advantage for most of a match and not win, no matter where they play.
What do you think? Are you happy with a road point, or are you dissatisfied with the team's play? Share your thoughts below!