KANSAS CITY, Kan. – New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps spent much of his week trying to devise the perfect game plan for Saturday night’s road match against Sporting Kansas City.
All of that work disappeared into the warm night air after 14 minutes when referee Silviu Petrescu dismissed Stephen McCarthy for denying a goalscoring opportunity by tugging on C.J. Sapong, and continued to evaporate as the Revs fell to a discouraging 3-0 defeat.
“It's really disappointing,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We felt like we had a good game plan going into this. We had chances early and the game was back and forth, but we weren't giving anything away. We were tight in there, we had a nice line and good, compact form. We thought we had a pretty good game plan and then the 14th minute comes along.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting KC 3, New England 0
Several problems immediately cropped up when McCarthy earned his red card, pulled his shirt over his head and walked off the field. The reduced numbers meant New England would be stretched by Sporting at every possible opportunity, while the back four would need to soak up even more pressure from the aggressive home side for the remainder of the game.
Most importantly, McCarthy’s absence combined with injuries to Darrius Barnes (left calf strain) and John Lozano (righ hip flexor strain) meant the Revs would also have to finish out the match with only one natural center back on the field.
“Going into the game, we knew we didn't have many options at center back,” Heaps said. “If you could have picked the one guy you didn't want to get red carded at that point, it was [McCarthy or A.J. Soares]. We just knew we had to have those guys play the entire game.”
The circumstances forced Heaps to slide Shalrie Joseph from the midfield into central defense in order to fill the void. Heaps pointed to Joseph's versatility (“You could put Shalrie in a lot of different places and he would do alright,” he said) as the primary reason why he decided to shift his captain into central defense.
Joseph's task for the night immediately changed from assuming control over the midfield battle to preparing for a hard night of work at the back.
“I'm just trying to keep it 0-0 until the half and work with A.J. and Matt [Reis] in the back,” Joseph said about his defensive switch. “Unfortunately, we weren't able to keep it 0-0. They were just pushing numbers forward. We allowed them a little too much space and they went 2-0 up.”
Those two first-half goals and Sapong's tally two minutes after halftime may have decided the final score of the game, but Joseph said McCarthy's dismissal and the subsequent inability to adhere to the carefully outlined game plan sorted out the result far earlier.
“The game was over from there, from when the referee made that decision and gave that red card,” Joseph said. “It changed the whole game, our whole game plan, our system and what we wanted to do. After that, we were just defending for our life and trying to hang on. We just couldn't do it tonight with ten men.”