FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Playing their third game in a week - and playing it shorthanded - D.C. United were probably aware that they were underdogs heading into their matchup with the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Without the services of Chris Rolfe (hamstring), Conor Doyle and Luis Silva (illness) and forced to pull Fabian Espindola out of their starting lineup after the talismanic forward went the distance in both of United’s other encounters earlier in the week, United faced a tall task in getting a result against the red-hot Revs.
Still, they almost did. D.C. battled to a 2-1 loss, very nearly grinding out a point after Espindola came off the bench to score a 73rd-minute equalizer. The Revolution would eventually triumph, riding a late Diego Fagundez goal to victory.
"We’re still making strides in the right direction. I don’t feel like we got played off the field tonight," veteran defender Bobby Boswell said. "I felt like we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. Some things didn’t go our way, but it wasn’t like it was a bad performance by our team tonight.
"I think we take some positives away from that, learn from the mistakes, and the ultimate goal is to be better and learn from it," he concluded.
D.C. head coach Ben Olsen was also very pleased with the way his club battled the conference-leading Revolution for 90 minutes, despite losing out on leaving New England with points in the standings.
"We fought back at 1-1 and we still had a chance for two down the stretch," said Olsen. "But we were good tonight, and overall I’m really happy with the way we played."
But while many United players opted for the glass-half-full outlook on the loss, others, felt hard done by the officiating in the match, suggesting that a pair of decisions by referee Juan Guzman - a non-call on New England’s first goal and a late red card issued to United forward Eddie Johnson - may have cost United a point.
"We’re extremely disappointed by the result,” United midfielder Davy Arnaud told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We did more than enough to get something out of that game. We’ve had three games this week, and we still came here and we matched them step for step.
"I think if you look at that first goal, [Chris] Korb gets fouled. Either way, we get back into the game and give up another. It’s disappointing. You can’t always point your finger at that, but I do think Korb was fouled on the first goal and I think if [the referee] looks at it again, he’ll see the same thing.”
Taking another look at Patrick Mullins’ opening goal, one can see the contact Arnaud is referring to. Fagundez makes a run into the box and is dispossessed by Jeff Parke - as Fagundez turns to collect the ball once more, he appears to extend his leg and body Korb away from the ball with his hip. It’s a challenge that’s often called a foul - but also often not.
Johnson’s red seemed less ambiguous. After a collision with New England midfielder Kelyn Rowe, Johnson pulled his leg back in an attempt to kick his opponent while on the pitch.
After the match, Guzman explained the call through the league’s pool reporter process, saying “[Johnson was] sent off for kicking at the opponent on the ground, while ball was not within playing distance.”