FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Matt Reis wouldn’t have protested very much if referee Sorin Stoica had simply pointed to the spot in the fifth minute of Sunday’s game against Montreal -- even if it accompanied a caution.
Sure, an early penalty call is a bold one for any referee to make. It’s the kind of call that many MLS referees shy from. But Stoica’s decision to issue Reis a straight red card for his foul on Marco Di Vaio inside the area, which left the Revolution shorthanded for nearly the entire game, was tough to grasp for the veteran goalkeeper, who was walking toward the locker room when Patrice Bernier converted the penalty to send the Impact on their way to a 4-2 win.
On the play in question, Felipe Martins played a through ball to Di Vaio, who already was eyeing his target as he reached for the pass. But the Impact striker’s first touch let him down, and as the ball wandered toward the end line, Reis reached out and tripped him.
While it was a clumsy foul to be sure, referees don’t often take it upon to themselves to issue both a penalty and a red card to go with it. After all, many referees do their best to avoid a scenario in which their decisions influence the outcome. Especially with the game just beginning.
But Sunday night was a different animal, and Reis’ early red card forced the Revolution to climb uphill for the duration of the game.
Despite going down a goal -- and a man -- so early, the Revolution battled back midway through the first half. Diego Fagundez played a ball just ahead of Dimitry Imbongo, who nearly got a hold of it before Jeb Brovsky slid through to knock it away. But Fagundez quickly reclaimed the ball and fired it past Troy Perkins to put the Revolution back in the game.
“We’ve been through (the red card/goal scenarios) a couple of times,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “This is our second time (dealing with) a red card offense early in a half. You work on who takes what and where you can press them and how you can break through, and just about when there is going to be the numbers advantage.”
But not long after Fagundez’s equalizer, Stoica reintroduced himself to the match.
In the 32nd minute, Martins raced into the area, where he was met by Jose Goncalves, who planted his right leg just far enough to bring the Montreal midfielder down. Although many referees look the other way on similar challenges, Stoica didn’t hesitate. He pointed to the spot again, much to the chagrin of Goncalves.
“You can see that Felipe was flying everywhere on the field when someone touched him,” Goncalves said. “The referee should be aware of that, and I think he didn’t consider this. He gave the penalty straight away, and I was very surprised.”
Heaps was incredulous. Rare is the occasion in which a club encounters two penalty calls in one game, never mind in one half.
“I felt that there was no explanation and it was disappointing,” Heaps said. “That’s what I think was the most disappointing, just the overall demeanor toward us. That’s what I feel upsets us the most.”
While the crowd showered Stoica with jeers, Di Vaio took center stage after Bernier slid through his second penalty shot within a 25-minute span. Moments before the interval, the Italian striker brought down a pass from Hassoun Camara, faked out A.J. Soares and slid it through.
He replicated the scene early in 55th minute to put the Impact comfortably ahead, even though Kelyn Rowe brought one back for the hosts in the 76th minute.
“We fought hard,” Heaps said. “But we needed a little bit of luck to go our way and it wasn’t going to happen tonight.”