New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Real Salt Lake

The Revolution didn’t look the part of a team at the end of an eight-day, three-game stretch on Saturday. But at the end of 90 minutes, New England succumbed to Real Salt Lake 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Although Blake Brettschneider’s 22nd minute goal put the Revs up early, Alvaro Saborio crashed the party with a pair of goals before the hour. Afer the hour, however, all hell broke loose. Will Johnson and Fernando Cardenas were issued reds. Benny Feilhaber was tripped up on the doorstep. Then, Matt Reis made a heady save off his noggin to keep his club within striking distance.

But when it was all said and done, the Revs watched another opportunity fall into the ditch. And for the third straight road game, the Revs couldn’t close a one-goal gap.

So what else did we learn from Saturday’s matchup?

Although the Revs may have lost, a lot of positives can be drawn from Saturday’s game. For starters, there was Blake Brettschneider’s impressive form. After failing to see the field since First Kick, the second-year pro didn’t miss a beat. Heck, he looked even better than he did at San Jose. And, of course, his 22nd rocket into the upper 90 all but reinforced that idea. Another positive? Unlike last week’s game at New York, the Revolution didn’t play terrified right out of the chute. Sure, Fabian Espindola may have breached the backline early. But at no point did the Revolution seem afraid of the stage. In fact, it was by sheer determination alone, against one of the most talented teams in MLS, that they were in position to pull it even.

Even with a number of positives to be drawn, the set pieces remain a certifiable disaster. For the fourth time in their last five, the Revolution conceded a goal from a dead ball situation. On Saturday, it was a Javier Morales free kick that curled toward the back post where Saborio, who’s mark was shorn milliseconds earlier, headed it through. Forget who should have picked up Saborio (OK, it was John Lozano – at least that’s the way it appeared on replay). The most troubling aspect of the problems that are plaguing the Revs on defensive set pieces is discipline. Stay in front of your mark. Beat him to the ball. It’s elementary. And then there’s the matter of attacking set pieces. All you need to know is that Lee Nguyen become the fourth different player to get an audition for dead ball specialist. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Contrary to what MLS and its new Professional Referee Organization would have you believe, the officiating has been awful this season. There’s little debate that the most thankless job in sports is that of the official. No matter how accurately a given game is called, there’s always a critic – and one who has half a mind to let the referee know. Nevertheless, what we saw on Saturday night was one of the worst examples of officiating seen this season. Will Johnson’s challenge of Clyde Simms may have been reckless, sure. And the referee was ready to award him a justified yellow. But the assistant referee got in the ear of David Gantar and he instead flashed a red. Then, of course, was the red awarded to Cardenas in the 81st minute. Forget the fact that the only contact that the midfielder made with Olave was with the inside of his leg – which was being taken out from under him by the center back. It’s one thing to call a foul, even if that would’ve still been incorrect. But to award a red for a player who actually suffered the foul? If MLS is serious about retroactively dishing out suspensions and fines, then the converse should be true when a player is unjustly booked.

At this point in the season, John Lozano does not look ready to take the CB spot from Stephen McCarthy. After missing seven games due to injury, Lozano looked rusty, to say the least. Although he looked ready to thwart Espindola early, he soon faded, which led to A.J. Soares having to shoulder more of the load and Kevin Alston having to help out centrally. Granted, it was just one game – and one game against one of the most dynamic attacks in the league. But you have to wonder whether Lozano – who never seemed to get on the same page with Soares – simply needs more minutes, or whether McCarth, the center back in training, is the better option alongside Soares.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Benny Feilhaber needs to start trusting his teammates and stop trying to do it all himself. For the third straight game, Feilhaber seemed all to happy to take as many touches as he could before he was separated from the ball. And while there’s no question that he could be a game-changer, Heaps and the rest of the coaching staff need to impress upon the midfielder that this is no longer 2011. The talent around him is better this season. This is not the same team that won only five games last season. And he needs to recognize that. It’s been said before, but it bears mentioning again: the only thing that’s keeping Benny Feilhaber from becoming one of the elite midfielders in MLS is the man in the mirror.


  1. rick sewall

    May 7, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Brian I agree with your comments concerning incompetent referees, but if the players and especially the coaching staff obsess with calls they don’t like the team will be less effective on he field. They have enough of a challenge defending, possessing he ball, and scoring and shouldn’t allow themselves to be sidetracked by bad calls. Luckily for the Revs, this problem is very common in this league. Whoever is captain should do two things- talk calmly to refs when necessary and tell a complaining player to shut up and play his position.

  2. rick sewall

    May 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    On set pieces defensive positioning in front of your mark leaves you vulnerable to a ball that goes over your head. You should position yourself exactly between the mark and the center of the goal.Never ball watch to much. You must be aware of the ball and your mark both. Never let the mark beat you to the ball by cutting in front of you. I takes all the concentration you have to mark properly. Heaps wasn’t too good at it.

  3. Chris B

    May 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    The point of the retroactive suspensions is moot if red cards are not pulled back as well. Why is it so hard for MLS to pull back bad red cards? Instead they punish the ref (only after multiple offenses). Why not lift the suspension? Their retroactive suspensions are with good intentions but if it stays like this and Cardenas is unjustly forced to sit next week out, The MLS Disciplinary Committee is basically Big Brother from the book 1984 and they are allowing the refs to become what they shouldn’t which is noticed all throughout the game. You should hardly notice the Ref. Shalrie said it best on Revs Wrap: “People want to watch soccer, not the refs blowing the whistle every 5-10 minutes”. Unfortunately Heaps and Joesph will probably be suspended for their comments, and while we’re at it, why don’t we suspend Brettschneider because his goal was too good; that’s how ridiculous this is becoming!

  4. rick sewall

    May 7, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    The referees will always make mistakes. This is a reality all players must accept when they sign their contracts to pay. If they continue to complain about referees calls their concentration on what they should be doing will suffer. The players should grow up and concentrate on winning. If they step on the field to win this should obviously be their attitude. As of yet I don’t see it with the Revs or any other team in the MLS .

  5. Brian O'Connell

    May 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    @Rick – thanks for lending your insight on defensive set piece positioning. Always good to get a perspective from a defender’s point of view (as a forward, defense has never been my forte’). And I agree with you on your point about refs: players shouldn’t obsess about a referee’s call. However, in saying that, I also happen to agree with Chris – if the MLS Disciplinary committee can retroactively award reds/suspension for non-calls and/or yellows, it should also rescind overly harsh calls. It has to work both ways. If the league is about getting calls right – even after the fact – then it should also admit when a player is unfairly booked. It seems like a lot of rookie refs are quick to use the red card to enforce order rather than using simple discretion. And it seemed like Gantar did just that (even the red to Johnson seemed harsh). That being said, if I were Cardenas, I’d have a serious chat with the union about appealing the suspension. To paraphrase Jim Joyce, the MLB umpire who cost pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game on a close play at first, Gantar “kicked the crap out of that decision.”

  6. rick sewall

    May 8, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I absolutely agree that there should be in place a system in which players have an opportunity to have wrong referee decisions changed after the game. It sure has to work both ways. Maybe I have experienced too many games in which teammates have obsessed with ref calls,and thereby have hurt our chances to win. Brian ,you are right. I was a defender. I watch the Mexican league from time to time. It seems to me that the refereeing is excellent. Am I right?

    • Brian O'Connell

      May 9, 2012 at 12:17 am

      @Rick, I usually catch a few Mexican league soccer on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings during the MLS offseason and you may have a point. Granted, I haven’t seen enough to cast judgement, but I will say this: the refs rarely seem to get in the way of a game. I can’t say for sure how many games via Mexico I’ve watched over the years, but I’m struggling to recall one where the officiating became a subplot. Maybe its the refs. Maybe its the players. Perhaps both?

  7. MyTake

    May 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I agree that defending set plays has been a problem, but Lozano was also taken out of the play by a foul. Lozano started by covering Olave, the outside player, while Joseph Saborio, who was more central. Then in what appeared to be a set play, the Olave ran by Saborio, and as Lozano tried to follow, Saborio steps away from the goal to give a 2 handed shove to Lozano, Joseph switches to mark Olave who’s going to goal, a third player comes across from the middle to impede Lozano, and Saborio goes in unmarked. Perhaps MLS is more physical than Lozano is used to, and seeing as it was only his first match he will to come to expect that, but like Saborio controlling the ball with his arm on the first goal, it seemed yet another incident missed by the ref, who does not seem up to par.

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