Sandy • Turns out, the unorthodox retirement of a current soccer coach's old jersey number was not the strangest thing that happened at Real Salt Lake's game against the New England Revolution at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday night.
For that, you had the see the actual game.
Referee Yader Reyes ejected defender Nat Borchers on a controversial call before the game was even three minutes old, commencing a wild encounter that featured two red cards, two penalty kicks, countless hard feelings and a riveting comeback by RSL from two goals down to escape with a 3-3 draw in front of 16,139 fans.
The postgame fireworks didn't stand a chance, after all that.
"Here come the fines," midfielder Kyle Beckerman joked when reporters entered the RSL locker room.
Actually, nobody really wanted to say much about the officiating, fearing punishment from Major League Soccer.
Coach Jason Kreis opened his postgame news conference by saying he had "zero comment" on the issue he did acknowledge it was "extremely difficult" to transition to the postgame ceremony at which his No. 9 jersey number was retired and counterpart Steve Nicol likewise did not want to talk about it.
Asked if he had a moment to talk after the game, RSL's Ned Grabavoy headed for the showers.
"I don't make enough," he said.
The disputed decision was that Borchers took down New England's Benny Feilhaber in the penalty box before reaching a long ball off a goal kick. Replays seemed to show the opposite, but Reyes said that from "what I saw live, on the field," he made a good call.
But that was only the start.
RSL's Fabian Espindola ultimately scored the final equalizer in the 83rd minute, but not before the teams endured a fusillade of questionable calls that brought both coaches to the verge of madness on the sideline and made Reyes an unfortunately hot topic in the stands, online and on the national ESPN broadcast.
"You'd like to come out and get a fair chance to play the game, and really see who's the better team, 11 v. 11," Beckerman said. "But for some reason, these officials today, they weren't going to let us do that."
The Revs built a 2-0 lead in the first 16 minutes on a Rajko Lekic penalty kick that followed the Borchers ejection, and a free kick by Chris Tierney that appeared to go under the RSL defensive wall.
Still, RSL controlled most of the game despite playing a man down for nearly an hour, before Reyes sent off New England's Ryan Cochrane with his second yellow card in the 67th minute. The team stunningly drew even in that span, on a putback of a free kick by Will Johnson and a penalty kick by Alvaro Saborio following a handball in the box by New England's Kevin Alston.
"The heart on this team the fight and everything is phenomenal," Johnson said.
But the Revs went ahead 3-2 on a header by midfielder Shalrie Joseph off a free kick in the 63rd minute, forcing Kreis to bend his own rule and note that the last two Revolution goals both came off free kicks, "neither of which did I think was a foul."
Fortunately for RSL, it had Espindola, who ran onto a deft pass from Saborio and beat goalkeeper Matt Reis one-on-one to keep the evening from turning into a total disaster.
"Fighting back with so many things against us, it shows a lot of the character we have in this locker room," Beckerman said. "So that was impressive tonight."
The draw moved RSL to 7-3-6 for 27 points, while the Revolution went to 3-8-7 for 16 points and avoided another embarrassing defeat, like the 6-0 and 5-0 losses they suffered in their previous two visits.
Not that RSL was terribly impressed.
"There's no doubt, if it was 11 v. 11, we would have won that game," Johnson said.
Storylines One amazing match
R IN SHORT • Fabian Espindola scores in the 83rd minute to deliver a 3-3 draw for RSL against New England.
KEY STAT • RSL outshoots the Revs 20-7.
KEY MOMENT • RSL's Nat Borchers is controversially sent off in the third minute with the fastest red card in team history.