SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis warned his squad during the week of overconfidence leading up to Sunday’s against the New England Revolution.
After all, RSL had dominated this series at Rio Tinto in the recent past, combining to outscore the Revs 11-0 the last two times met on RSL’s home turf.
But as explosive as those matches were, nothing could have prepared RSL for the rematch Sunday, which featured a red card for each team, late drama and a combined six goals scored.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
“Fourth of July fireworks — that’s what you wanted, right?” RSL midfielder Andy Williams said after the 3-3 draw. “I’m sure that the fans are pretty happy, ESPN is pretty happy, but it’s kind of difficult [for us.]”
The drama started early, when defender Nat Borchers was whistled for a breakaway challenge on the Revs’ Benny Feilhaber that drew both a penalty kick and a red card.
The call was a controversial one, exasperated by the fact that the central referee made the call from midfield instead of relying on his assistant referee who appeared in better position to make the decision.
“At that moment, on the field, I saw him kicking the leg of Benny and subsequently get the ball,” referee Yader Reyes told the pool reporter after the match, reiterating that in his mind it was worthy of an ejection. “I have not seen a replay. But like I said, what I saw live, on the field, yes.”
New England’s Rajko Lekic converted the penalty kick and the Revs eventually built a 2-0 lead by the 16th minute, but a crucial tap-in from Will Johnson in the 24th minute and a penalty kick from Álvaro Saborío in the 56th minute pulled RSL even.
A goal from Sharlie Joseph put New England up again, but Fabián Espíndola’s finish in the 83rd minute sealed the unlikely comeback for RSL.
“My take-away from the match is that I’m really, really proud of our guys,” Kreis said. “To get to 2-2 and then have another disappointing decision and a free kick goal scored off of that, and then fight back again to get to 3-3 is a huge credit to our group.”
For the most part, Real Salt Lake felt that they played well given the circumstances.
“They didn’t do anything to cause us to worry,” Williams said. “We kept creating chances and getting shots. Even down 2-0 I thought we outplayed New England. Their chances all came from set pieces tonight.”
And that is where the concern comes in. Referees judgment aside, the team has to ask how Feilhaber managed to slip behind the defense in the opening minutes in order to setup the red card decision, and they also have to question why they let the free kick by Chris Tierney on the second goal go underneath the wall in front of Nick Rimando.
“I have to assume that it went under the wall,” Kreis said. “Obviously that’s not good enough. The wall — never do we want them jumping. We want them staying still and if someone hits the ball over them and into the top corner, we can credit them. But if somebody hits the ball into the lower corner because we jumped, now we’ve got some questions to answer.”