New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: Revolution at Whitecaps

Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen, seen here matching up against Lee Young Pyo in last year's contest vs. the Whitecaps, nearly equalized late in stoppage time in Saturday's 4-3 loss in Vancouver. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen, seen here matching up against Lee Young Pyo in last year’s contest vs. the Whitecaps, nearly equalized late in stoppage time in Saturday’s 4-3 loss in Vancouver. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Juan Guzman robbed the Revolution of their destiny on Saturday night.

By now, you’ve probably seen the play in which Kenny Miller pops like a weasel then crashes down to the turf with Andrew Farrell breathing down his neck. Actually, you’ve probably seen it more than once. Different angles, different speeds. OK, so you’ve probably maybe definitely seen it.

As the scene unfolds, Guzman, like most referees, is trailing the play. It’s likely he sees Farrell sprinting back, and a sliver of Miller’s frame behind the rookie defender when – boom – the Whitecaps’ striker flails to the turf. A decision is made. In Guzman’s mind, it’s a clear penalty and a red card offense.

And it might be. It very well might be. We, as fans, writers, second-guessers, and soccer watchers, have the benefit of slow-motion replay, and unlimited views of that replay, too. Guzman does not. He sees it in real-time, and real-time on a play like that goes by real-fast. And we have to take this into consideration.

But that isn’t where Guzman rips three points away from the Revolution. No, the moment he essentially does that is when he skirts the opportunity to consult with the assistant referee. The same assistant referee to the right of the play who’s not only closer to the play, but appears to have a better view. No matter. The red is already in Guzman’s hand three seconds after Miller hits the deck. He points to the spot. The decision is made, but we’re not talking about Guzman taking his talents to South Beach.

Now, it’s quite possible that even if he does consult the assistant referee, that the verdict is still a penalty and the card is still red. That could’ve happened. And Farrell’s night is still over.

We’ll never know, of course. And another thing we’ll never know is whether the Revolution, who lit the board for two goals in the first 20 minutes and looked unstoppable early, would go on to score two, three or even four more. It’s possible they do. It’s possible that the Whitecaps excuse of a defense gets exposed again and again and again. There’s a joke there, but this is a family-friendly website. Anyway, the way the first 20 minutes went, it looked more than possible that the Revolution could erupt for touchdown. Actually, it looked likely. Very likely.

Very likely because of the way the attack still blinked with life in the second half, despite being a man down. The way Dimitry Imbongo, of all people (one career goal going into Saturday), plucked a gorgeous pass from Darrius Barnes, of all people (zero career assists going into Saturday), and scored in the 84th minute. The way that Lee Nguyen came inches from leveling it in stoppage time. Or even the way that Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo still found plenty of the gaps even though the Whitecaps hold a two-goal lead.

When Guzman sent off Farrell in the 23rd minute and awarded a penalty to Vancouver, he didn’t just take the win away from the Revolution. He single-handledly snuffed out what could’ve been an explosive night for the attack, and an emphatic three points.

Three emphatic points: That’s what Saturday’s game seemed destined for until the 23rd minute red card. And because of that red card, all we’re left with is a giant “WHAT IF?”

Thankfully, no referee, assistant referee or fourth official could stop us from delivering to you the latest batch of observations.

1. It bears repeating: The first 20 minutes was the Revolution’s most potent display of offense all season. There’s only one word that can accurately describe what the Revolution attack did right there in the first 20 minutes: Wow. OK, maybe two words: Just wow. After last week’s scoreless draw vs. D.C., Juan Agudelo said the Revolution should’ve mixed in some long balls to throw the D.C. defense off. Well, it looked like New England took the advice to heart on the first goal. Chris Tierney launched one over the defense and right in front of Agudelo, who ran onto it, then slotted it past Brad Knighton. Ten minutes later, the attack does it possession-style. Saer Sene to Diego Fagundez to Kelyn Rowe to Brad Feldman’s goal call. Two goals inside of 20 minutes. And most notably, the attack was hitting the Vancouver defense from a host of different angles. Yes, the 5-0 scoreline against L.A. looked sexy. But on Saturday night in British Columbia, some 3,000+ miles from Gillette Stadium, the attack was scorching toward its finest performance until…well, you know the rest.

2. Last week, Juan Agudelo said the offense let the defense down in the 0-0 draw to D.C. This week, it was the defense who let the offense down. There wasn’t much the defense could do on Camilo Sanvezzo’s 25th minute strike from the spot, but there was something they could’ve done about Jordan Harvey’s 39th minute goal and Kenny Miller’s 43rd minute strike. On the former, Harvey creeps right to back post completely unmarked and taps through Russell Teibert’s cross. On the latter, Nigel Reo-Coker catches the defense napping when he heads it forward to Miller, who beats Stephen McCarthy and slots it through. Two daggers before halftime. Granted, there’s little any defender can do on Miller’s second strike. How do you defend a goal that belongs in an art gallery? The fact, however, is that with better defending, the Revolution still find a way to bag a point, if not three.

3. The other shame of the 23rd minute red card is the fact that Saer Sene was playing so well. Last year, the idea of putting Saer Sene out wide was a scary proposition. Well, scary to everyone but Jay Heaps. Out on the right, he looked slow and clumsy, and wasn’t particularly effective. On Saturday, it was another story completely. Not only did Sene help set up Rowe’s goal, but he became a benefactor to the attack by linking with Nguyen, Rowe and Fagundez. He completed 15 of 17 passes, made three recoveries to help out his defenders and looked dangerous in space. It was one of his most complete performances in a Revolution uniform, which made his substitution for Darrius Barnes in the 28th minute a jawbreaker-sized pill to swallow.

4. Aside from this stoppage time blast, Lee Nguyen’s set pieces and shooting didn’t help his team’s cause on Saturday. It’s a shame that someone of Nguyen’s obvious talent and ability continues to struggle on any ball launched longer than 20 yards. With his club down a man, and down a goal (then two goals after Miller’s second strike), the Revolution sure could have used a fortuitous free kick to pull themselves back into the contest. Nguyen’s first free kick was not only off-target, but it curled away from frame. His shots from outside the area weren’t as poorly executed, yet they weren’t much better. If Nguyen’s going to be ambitious, he’s got to improve his technique. This isn’t to say he cost the Revolution a point on Saturday. Hardly. But when opportunities present themselves on the road, and the team’s down a man, there’s really no excuse for sending shots yards above the bar or wide of the post, or issuing a comically-errant inswinger.

5. It was not a good night to be Andrew Farrell, for sure, but it was an awful night to be Bobby Shuttleworth. Farrell may feel legitimately hard done by Guzman’s red and penalty because, let’s face it, the pair are a defender’s worst nightmare. But it was Shuttleworth who had that the night to forget, and through little fault of his own. First, of course, was Sanvezzo’s penalty, which he guessed correctly on the dive, only to have the shot still find its way into the net. Then there was Harvey’s goal, a goal in which the defense neglected to mark him. Miller caught the defense out of position on his first strike, and on his second one…well, a goalkeeper knows it’s not his night when he gets scored upon like that. True, he probably would’ve been in better position had he not drifted off his line. On the other hand, could you blame him? Could you? His back four had already let him down on three other occasions. At that juncture, who could fault him?

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