By IAN HOLLIDAY
For the second time in four days, the New England Revolution wound up in a three-red-card match. Unfortunately for the Revs, this week they were unable to salvage a result, falling to a largely reserve Real Salt Lake squad at Gillette Stadium Saturday night.
Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis made wholesale changes to the squad that ousted Saprissa from the CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday night, but the weakened side never looked uncomfortable against the Revs. Goals from Chris Schuler and Paulo Araujo Jr. provided the goals to give RSL a 2-0 victory that kept the visitors unbeaten and gave New England it's first loss of the season.
The match began with 20 rather uneventful minutes, but it ended with 20 chaotic ones as Shalrie Joseph, Pat Phelan and Will Johnson were all sent off during several on-field skirmishes after minute 70.
Real Salt Lake opened the scoring in the 27th minute when defender Chris Schuler headed home his first ever MLS goal off of a Collen Warner corner kick. The goal came on the heels of a terrific shot from Ned Grabavoy that nearly opened the scoring itself. The 20-yard drive beat the Revs' backup goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who started his second straight game for the injured Matt Reis, but it couldn't beat the inside of the right post, caroming out to the six-yard box before being pushed over for the goal-yielding corner.
Paulo Araujo Jr. doubled RSL's lead in the 47th minute. The Brazilian forward ran onto a pass from Warner behind the New England defense and calmly slotted home.
The seeds of conflict were sewn in the 60th minute, when Revolution defender Kevin Alston received a yellow card for a hard challenge that sent Johnson slamming into the advertising boards surrounding the field, causing tempers to flare for the first time in the match.
The situation escalated with the introduction of Kyle Beckerman in the 62nd minute. Beckerman and Joseph almost immediately began sparring physically and verbally, and eventually Joseph poked the RSL midfielder in the face with referee Jasen Anno looking on. Anno showed Joseph a straight red, though the replay showed his decision was rather harsh.
Revolution head coach Steve Nicol said he hadn't had a chance to look at any of the red cards, but was disappointed to have lost two key players for the club's next match.
"For that game to have three red cards is pretty incredible," Nicol said. "It's tough to swallow. We weren't good tonight, but we've lost Shalrie and Pat Phelan for next week in a game that had no real challenges in it up until the red card."
The Revolution's best chance of the game came when Kenny Mansally lost the ball at the top of the Salt Lake penalty area in the 68th minute. The loose ball rolled to Marko Perovic, whose hard shot forced a good save from backup goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, who started for the resting Nick Rimando.
Neither team managed a shot until the 21st minute, when Johnson blasted a hard, curling free kick that forced a good save from Shuttleworth.
The Revs' best chance of the first half came in the 42nd minute, when Pat Phelan headed defender Kevin Alston's cross just wide.
After the match, Kreis said he was "very pleased" with the way his reserves performed.
"They did an excellent job," Kreis said. "We put the challenge to them to rise to this occasion, to step out and step up and kind of make a statement for themselves — not only to us, but to everybody in the league — about what kind of players they are."
The win keeps Real Salt Lake perfect (3-0-0) on the young season going into Wednesday night's Rocky Mountain Cup showdown at Colorado. The Revs (1-1-3) will return to action on Sunday, April 17 at the Houston Dynamo.