New England fans had every reason to be flying high heading into last Thursday night’s match against the Chicago Fire. The Revs had made it a habit of beating Chicago and the previous week’s drubbing of Houston had New England fans talking MLS Cup in early April.
One blowout loss later and Revs fans are starting to have doubts. Yes, the red card on Jeff Larentowicz impacted the game considerably, but the pasting put on by Chicago still raised plenty of questions for the reigning East champions.
SBI correspondent Andrew Karl watched the game and his plans for a night of joy were ruined like the plans of some many Revs fans last Thursday. He provides his take on last week’s loss ((Feel free to provide your reaction to Andrew’s piece in the comments section below):
The ref, the red card and the spoiled game
By Andrew Karl
All last week I looked forward to one thing. With each day I inched closer to the light at the end of the tunnel: the Revs and the Fire on a buddy’s 50-inch HD TV. My club in an early season eastern conference showdown on a television seemingly the size of a garage door was like looking into the eyes of God…or Pele. I was determined to forget the stresses of the work week with my favorite 90-minute activity. Chicago’s early goal was only a setback, as I was undaunted in my quest to witness the Revs rout the Fire.
I only held this hope for 7 minutes. We all saw the tackle, Jeff Larentowicz showed a few studs and found a little ankle. Did it merit the red card? I don’t know, because I don’t trust my own judgment here. I hold a bias, plain and simple. As long as a Revolution player’s tackle doesn’t leave an opponent maimed or disfigured, I yell to let play go on. What I will debate here is the timing and circumstance of the ejection.
Apparently, referee Baldomero Toledo had forgotten exactly where he was and what was going on Thursday night. Did he realize that this was the first ESPN MLS Prime Time match up of the season? Did he remember the fact that this fixture is a rivalry or did he forget last year’s Eastern Conference final and TT’s historic bicycle kick? He must have, because after only 7 minutes Salazar stepped in, showed Jeff the red, and said “Hello everyone, thank you for coming out to Bridgeview and tuning in on ESPN2, but the game has been canceled. If you’d like to stick around and watch 3 more garbage goals before the Revolution finally start defending well in the second half, be my guest.”
Not only did the referee deprive the Revolution a chance at three points, he also deprived the television viewers of a good, competitive, hard fought game. All I’m asking for is some relative thinking in this situation. It was the league’s first game on ESPN2 this year, people were watching who had never watched an MLS game before. What a perfect time to impress the pseudo-fans and convert them to real supporters.
Instead of impress, the referee took the match, and consequently the ratings, into his own hands and decided that a circus would be more entertaining than a competitive soccer match. What do you guys think? Would you rather a referee consistently use a strict and borderline dogmatic interpretation to the rulebook or take a more relative approach, weighing the consequences, venue, and situation?
What now for us, the Revolution faithful? For me, more anxiety as still-unanswered questions swirl in my brain. I had been looking to Thursday night’s game for answers: Can Castro play as a central attacking midfielder? Can players like Cristman, Mansally, and Nyassi perform as they did during the season opener on a consistent basis?
I drove home Thursday night not only pondering these, but also yearning to see more of Chase Hilgenbrink and a 4-man back line. The Revolution looked good in a 4-4-1 in the second half. Should Nicol go with the 4-4-2 on Wednesday? If so, how will a central midfield pairing of Shalrie Joseph and Gary Flood do without the extra body in the midfield to help them link up? Will we finally see Chris Albright get involved in the attack?
I think the team will play well in a 4-4-2 setup, and they may have to until the squad is healthier, but not until Big Red is back from suspension. He and Shalrie are a holding midfield pairing that can’t be matched elsewhere in the league. Jeff looked like a whole new player in the home opener. He was doing more than crushing opponents with tackles and then dishing off to Joseph or Ralston. He was winning the ball, finding space, making good decisions, and making better passes. He’s more and more becoming the passionate, determined, and committed player that Revolution fans will cheer for years to come.
With Wednesday night just around the corner, I’m hoping that Nicol can piece together a lineup and strategy that will secure us a point against the Wizards. Right now earning a draw with Twellman, Ralston, and Larentowicz out would be a small victory to me. Hopefully more answers will be had after our third match, but I have a feeling that more questions are bound to arise.