FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It looked like referee Juan Carlos Rivero threw the New England Revolution a lifeline when he controversially pointed to the spot in the second minute of second half of stoppage time in their match Wednesday against Real Salt Lake.
RSL overturned Ryan Guy's 51st-minute tally to take the lead through late goals by Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia. The penalty kick offered the Revs a chance to rescue a point on a night where they thought they deserved at least a draw.
One minor hitch sidetracked the apparent windfall, though: The Revs did not have their designated penalty-kick taker on the field.
“Lee Nguyen is our penalty-kick taker,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told reporters after the match. “We have contests and things like that and the players work on it.”
Nguyen's withdrawal after 74 minutes left a void, and both Jerry Bengtson and Saër Sène wanted to assume the role. Both men stated their claims to the spot – Bengtson usually shoulders the duties for Honduras, Sène took the penalties for the Revolution last season – and tried to sort out who would eventually take the kick.
Sène eventually won the argument, but his resulting attempt lacked conviction and deception. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando anticipated the shot and dove to his right to make a fairly routine save to thwart the effort.
“So in terms of [making that decision], Saer was our taker last year,” Heaps said. “He is coming back to form and he has taken a few, obviously, in training. That’s a bad one. Not a bad penalty kick, it’s a bad spot to be in the 90th minute. It would have been good to have Lee in that spot.”
The miss left the Revs to lament what might have occurred on another night and throw their support behind Sène for his decision to assume the burden in the waning stages of the game.
“It’s always a heart-breaker,” Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy said. “I mean, a penalty’s a penalty. All the pressure is definitely on the taker. We all feel for Saër. It’s a difficult position. He stepped up, he was confident about it. I think give him another nine of those he’d put them all away. Soccer’s like that sometimes. You have to take it on the chin and we don’t have to wait long to turn this one around.”