Take one look at the stat sheet from MinnestoaUnited’s game against the Revs and you could quickly guess what kind of game it was: chippy and aggressive.
Games like this are often difficult to coach. With the Loons finding the back of the net in the first five minutes, the Revs found themselves on their heels. They quickly sought to remedy that in the only way teams in that situation know how: put on pressure. United quickly countered New England’s pressure with pressure of their own.
Brent Kallman and the rest of the defensive line had their hands full as the Revs fought for an equalizer. No amount of training during the week can ever quite prepare defenders for the kind of onslaught that comes from a desperate team trying to find a tying goal. In a great display of heroics, Kallman stepped in front of a likely equalizing goal in the 19th minute.
Ten minutes later, the chippiness between the two teams increased, as Francisco Calvo drew the first (of many) cards of the evening between the two squads.
The Loons’ captain showed in this moment (and in many other heated moments during the game) why he was chosen to captain this team. Calvo typically (and I say typically) is really level-headed. He does not get flummoxed or heated over most things. This truly is the kind of player you want as your captain: one who will defend and compete for his teammates, while staying respectful toward the referees, even when the calls are not going in your favor.
Games like Wednesday’s against the Revs, however, can be challenging for even the most level-headed players. Watching Calvo, you could tell how frustrated he was becoming with the calls being made. You have to give him credit for remaining respectful despite his mounting frustration. Credit to Adrian Heath for choosing Calvo to captain this team.
As the first half came to a close, a flurry of events happened in quick succession. Collen Warner found himself on the receiving end of yet another yellow card for the home team, while Darwin Quintero found the back of the net after beating several of New England’s defenders and sending a blistering shot low to the far corner.
Coming out of the locker room down two goals, you would expect the Revolution to turn up the heat during the second half. They did not disappoint.
In the 52nd minute, Bobby Shuttleworth managed to deflect a free kick, but the ball bounced between Alexi Gomez and a New England midfielder at the edge of the box. In one of the most head-scratching foul calls of the game (according to Twitter users), a penalty kick was awarded to New England, which they capitalized on and cut the lead in half.
“Obviously, I think Alexi [Gomez] was a bit rash,” Heath said after the game. “I’d like to see it again. I don’t know whether it’s in or out. And obviously, once they got one, it gave them some impetus and momentum in the game. You know, we were hanging on at times, but we always looked dangerous.”
This was a game-changing moment for both squads. The Revolution found momentum and began to press, while the goal seemed to light a fire in the Loons, prompting several heroic saves by Shuttleworth and some spectacular defending by Kallman, Calvo, and company.
Looking at the stat sheet for the second half, it is clear that the game intensified with six yellow cards awarded over the course of the final 45 minutes. It is difficult to coach in a game where it feels like the referee has lost control and is trying to win it back through disciplining players. Granted, it is also very challenging to ref in such a physical and aggressive game.
Quintero looked spectacular once again. His full-field sprints, during which he carried the ball up the field into dangerous territory, thrilled fans and coach Heath.
“He’s a difference maker,” raved Heath. “We’re getting better. I think the squad is better. I honestly believe that there’s a determination in the group. As I’ve said before. If we can cut silly mistakes out, we are more than capable of playing against anybody in the league.”
After a wild and nail-biting 90 minutes of play, the final whistle blew with United still on top 2-1. Games like these are not easy to watch for fans, they are exhausting for players, and they are difficult to coach, but games like these are what make soccer such an incredible sport to be a part of.
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