As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.
10 – Red cards shown to New England Revolution players in 2011
The New England Revolution nearly made history in 2011, but it wasn’t the kind of benchmark that gets commemorated in club annals or plastered on roadside billboards.
The Revs simply couldn’t keep 11 players on the field on a consistent basis a year ago, coming within a lone red card of tying the 2000 MetroStars for MLS’ all-time record of ejections in a single season – one of the many reasons why New England held down the fort at the bottom of the league table.
They did have that MetroStars squad beat in one measurement of indiscipline, however, averaging 3.4 games per red card, which was tenths of a game lower than the mark set by Octavio Zambrano’s side through 32 games in 2000. Predictably, New England didn’t win a game in which they saw red. They didn’t collapse playing down a man either, though, losing just three games when Steve Nicol saw a player sent off.
Of course, 2012 provides a blank disciplinary slate, one that new manager Jay Heaps will be keen to keep as clean as possible. Of the Revs players who were sent off in 2011, only Pat Phelan and Ryan Cochrane are no longer in the fold this season. With that in mind, Heaps will have to be sure Chris Tierney and A.J. Soares, who were both ejected twice, and Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Kenny Mansally and Matt Reis avoid the early showers that partially defined a dreadful campaign a year ago.
Based on his own career, Heaps should be able to teach his team a thing or two about keeping referees from reaching for their pocket. The former New England defender was sent off four times during his playing days, but wasn’t ejected during his final six seasons. That's also assuming his team needs to be taught and that the trend is more endemic than fluke, which is no guarantee.
Either way, eliminating ejections alone – or at least cutting down on them significantly – will be just one area of emphasis in Heap’s first year in charge as the Revs’ attempt to clean up the imperfections that plagued them in 2011.