Saved by Stolica

Ilija Stolica's late goal kept the Revs from suffering an ugly loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/aduama.com)

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Despite holding a man advantage for the entire second half and even playing 11 vs. 9 for a spell, it took a stoppage time goal from Ilija Stolica just for the New England Revolution to salvage a draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Only Stolica’s late dramatics stole the headlines from a match largely impacted by referee Baldomero Toledo.  Toledo handed out three red cards and called for a penalty before the night was over, helping to create an ugly and disjointed match.

Stolica’s heroics came in the 93rd minute as the Revs were pushing numbers forward desperately looking for an equalizer. The Serbian striker, who entered the match in the 61st minute for his first action of the season, received the ball close to goal, after Zack Shilawski headed down a Pat Phelan cross, and volleyed it past ‘keeper Jay Nolly to knot the score at 1-1.

But the story was all Toledo until that point. The veteran MLS ref started the action by sending off Gershon Koffie for leading with his arm in a challenge shortly before halftime. Ten minutes after the half, Toledo whistled for a penalty for the Whitecaps after Camilo went down in the Revolution box.

Vancouver’s designated player Eric Hassli showed his class, sending third-year ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth, filling in for injured veteran Matt Reis, the wrong way and calmly chipping the ball into the net. Hassli’s bizarre celebration that followed assured Toldeo was again in the spotlight.

The veteran French striker jumped over the signboards before taking his long-sleeve jersey off, only to reveal the same jersey in short-sleeve form underneath. Upon returning to the pitch, Hassli was immediately issued a yellow card. Since Hassli had already received a yellow a few minutes earlier, his second caution meant the end of the night for the 29-year-old, leaving the Revs with a two-man advantage.

Toledo wasn’t done dishing out the ejections either. In the 74th minute, it was the Revs who would see one of their players’ tossed. Rookie A.J. Soares came in late on a tackle on Atiba Harris and was immediately sent off.

The match started off a back and forth affair with the Revs (1-0-3, 6 points) and Whitecaps (1-1-2, 5 points) both seeing their fair share of the ball, but failing to create many solid chances.

The best opportunity of the half came for New England just two minutes before halftime on a Zak Boggs corner kick. Stephen McCarthy rose above his defender to reach Boggs’s cross and headed a strong shot on frame that beat goalkeeper Jay Nolly, but was cleared off the line by Nizar Khalfan.

Just a minute later the Revs would gain a man advantage with Koffie’s ejection.

But that extra man hardly sparked the Revs offense to life. The absence of 2010 team MVP Marko Perovic, out with a hamstring strain, was particularly evident in the second half as the team lacked the decisiveness and creativity he brings in the final third.

The Revs rarely threatened as their final pass was consistently lacking and it was Vancouver that would get on the score sheet first. With Kevin Alston on the sidelines receiving treatment for an earlier elbow to the face, one that earned Hassli his first yellow, the Whitecaps took advantage of the hole in the Revs defense to break into the box. Boggs, looking to defend Camilo running in on goal, took out the Brazilian striker with a slight push, and Toledo immediately pointed to the spot.

Hassli’s penalty kick goal and subsequent ejection ensued.

But even a two-man advantage wasn’t enough to give the Revs control of the match. The visitors still struggled to find any success in the final third. Several attacking subs, including bringing on Kenny Mansally, Stolica, and Chris Tierney brought life to the team, but did not improve the final pass.

The ejection of Soares in the 74th minute, narrowing the Revs numerical advantage to 10 vs. 9, actually seemed to spark the Revs attack to life.

Tierney had the Revs best chance of the half so far in the 82nd minute after the team earned a dangerous free kick at the top of the box. Tierney curled a free kick around the wall and towards the upper right corner, but his effort was well saved by Nolly.

Three minutes later Stolica thought he had put the Revs on top when he headed in a cross from Tierney, but the veteran striker was a step offside on the play and his goal was discounted.

It wasn’t until deep into stoppage time that Stolica finally found his goal and saved the Revs from falling to an expansion side in spite of their man advantage.

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue