The New England Revolution didn't start off the Desert Diamond Cup particularly well on Wednesday night, losing 2-0 to the Seattle Sounders in a game marred by poor refereeing and even poorer conduct between the two sides. The Revs' Sainey Nyassi and the Sounders' Marc Burch were both sent off in the later moments of the second half.
The goals both came in the first half. A dubious handball call led to a penalty that Brad Evans converted early on, blasting past a wrong-footed Bobby Shuttleworth. Then, later in the half, Eddie Johnson used his considerable agility to torch Jose Goncalves before placing a fairly wonderful finish inside the far post, curling it with his left foot.
Both halves saw their share of unnecessary physicality and angry violence. In the first, questionable calls by referee Juan Guzman (that is, calling fouls one way but not the other) seemed to engender a sense of vigilante justice, which wasn't helped by Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso's naturally physical play style.
Jose Goncalves and Kalifa Cisse were whistled for several hard fouls, but it was a burgeoning conflict between Alonso and Clyde Simms that really blew the doors off in the latter stages of the first half. The two clashed more than once, but finally Alonso, who was already on a yellow card, was whistled for a totally unnecessary two-footed challenge on Chris Tierney. Tierney left with an ankle sprain, while Simms confronted Alonso and gave his head a shove, which prompted a near-scrum.
Interestingly, no cards were shown. Instead, Guzman forced both coaches to make substitutions, getting Alonso and Simms off the field for the rest of the match. It was an unorthodox move, but the right one; both coaches want to see their players get time in 11 v. 11 situations, and having to see teams go down a man that early would have been counter-productive to both teams. Alonso was the only one who deserved to be sent off, but again, Heaps probably doesn't want to judge how his team does against ten men; he wants a chance to judge them against eleven.
In the second half, Guzman decided to use the cards. In about the 76th minute or so, Nyassi came in on Burch with a two-footed scissor tackle, and Burch shoved him to the ground in retaliation. Both teams came together, but cooler heads prevailed and no further violence occurred. Nyassi and Burch were sent off.
The extra-curriculars really marred what could have otherwise been a good learning experience for both Heaps and fans watching on. That said, here are a few observations we can be certain about:
Simms is still a leader - Simms may have been forced off the pitch, but his obvious fire and need to stand up for his teammates was good to see. Ideally, the prospect of being crunched by guys like Cisse and Goncalves will deter teams from just trying knock the Revs down, but if the rest of the squad can get in on it, that's fine.
Bengtson needs a lot more time - Jerry Bengtson played the first half, and was largely flat. He looked much better for Honduras (shocker) and obviously needs more preseason time to adjust. Hopefully he can actually do that, because if he fails to do so this season, he must be considered a flop.
Holy Marko Jesic, Batman - Trialist Marko Jesic, an Australian from Newcastle Jets in the A-league, impressed in his second half appearance. He showed a good motor, some technical ability, and a nose for the right runs at the right time. His final product left something to be desired, but he seemed to show enough to stay in camp for another game, at least.
Andy Dorman is already settled - Dorman played the full second half, and he looked solid. He got a shot or two off, played some good passes, and took care of the ball. After starting his career in New England, Dorman's return should be more about using the advanced soccer brain on his shoulders to keep the team going on the pitch, especially in the attack, where he has always excelled. He showed some of that against Seattle.
Quick Hits - Andrew Farrell had a pretty good half, defended well...Gabe Latigue has a serious chance to make this roster...Scott Caldwell also had a good shift, showed tenacity...Sainey Nyassi looks better than he has in a while, but still lacks polish he should have gotten years ago...Lee Nguyen is still a target, and still needs protection...Kevin Alston should be at left back as much as possible
What do you guys think? Any observations I missed or that you had of your own? Let us know in the comments!