The New England Revolution endured early adversity and confusing officiating to come out with a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview on Saturday afternoon. Quincy Amarikwa scored early, but Lee Nguyen's penalty leveled things in the first half.
The match really belonged to referee Sorin Stoica, though, who repeatedly made confusing and controversial calls that had both sides scratching their heads. In addition to the first-half penalty converted by Nguyen, Stoica issued a red card to Amarikwa and then awarded Chicago a stoppage-time penalty while sending off Kevin Alston.
Amarikwa's goal was actually the first real chance or meaningful attacking action of the match. Jeff Larentowicz picked up an errant touch from Diego Fagundez and laid it off to Alex. The Brazilian then fed a razor-sharp ball to Amarikwa on the run that split Andrew Farrell and Darrius Barnes cleanly. There were hints of offside, but the flag stayed down, and Amarikwa out-muscled Farrell before finishing between Bobby Shuttleworth's legs for the lead.
Sorin Stoica's first controversial call came in the 28th minute. Kevin Alston surged into the box on the left against Patrick Nyarko. He appeared to take too long a touch, but went down when clipped lightly by Nyarko and got the call from Stoica. Fire fans will point out that Alston looked to have kicked the ball on too far, and that the contact was light; Revolution fans will take it. Nguyen buried the penalty past Sean Johnson in the 31st minute to even the scores.
In the 34th minute, Stoica's decision-making stunned again. He issued a card to Amarikwa for simulation in the box, but replays showed that there was at least as much contact there as on the Alston penalty. Alone, the yellow might not have been notable enough to warrant inclusion in any game recap; later, however, it would prove critical.
In the first of two injury incidents, Fire midfielder Alex was replaced in the 38th minute by Matt Watson after picking up a limp and being unable to continue. The other was Diego Fagundez, who apparently sustained an injury that required him to be replaced by Chris Tierney at halftime.
Stoica's first yellow card to Amarikwa became significant in the 73rd minute. Amarikwa came in studs-up on Andy Dorman but missed him, catching the Revolution midfielder with his trailing leg instead. It was still an ugly challenge and worthy of a yellow card, which is exactly what Stoica issued. The noteworthy part was that it was Amarikwa's second yellow, and he was sent off amid vehement protests from the Fire.
Chicago actually played better while down a man, with their best chance coming in the 79th minute. Larentowicz flicked a header to Lovel Palmer in the box, who crossed to the far post for Bakary Soumare. The big defender went horizontal with a scissor volley that deflected off of Darrius Barnes and went wide. If not for Barnes, it would have been on frame.
Stoppage time was a big mess. In the 90th minute, Mike Magee got a hold of a long ball and fired on goal past Shuttleworth. It deflected off the base of the far post, but Kevin Alston was able to clear the follow-up off the line. That shot was followed by yet another, which hit Alston again, before the ball was finally cleared. However, Stoica pointed to the penalty spot and issued Alston a red card for handball and denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
Replays seemed inconclusive on the handball, but nevertheless it was a penalty and the man advantage had disappeared. Jose Luis Anangono stepped up to take the spot kick, but he fired it largely down the middle, where Shuttleworth was able to save and block Larentowicz's follow-up before the ball was cleared, saving the draw.
New England will be back in action next against Sporting Kansas City in Foxboro on Saturday, April 26th.