WASHINGTON, D.C. – Juan Agudelo scored one of the best goals in MLS history on Wednesday night, but his postgame reaction to the audacious overhead kick said everything about the New England Revolution’s frustration on the evening their 2015 season came to an abrupt end.
“I could care less about the goal,” Agudelo said. “I wish we would’ve won.”
It appeared for a brief period that Agudelo’s 15th-minute wonder strike was going to send the Revs on their way to victory in their Knockout Round encounter with D.C. United. The visitors piled on the pressure after Agudelo’s opener only for United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to twice deny Kelyn Rowe with stellar stops.
New England were ultimately left to rue those missed chances as Chris Pontius equalized with a deft header on the stroke of halftime, setting the stage for Chris Rolfe’s 83rd-minute winner, redeeming himself after driving his penalty off the post less than 10 minutes earlier.
The sequence saw D.C. emerge 2-1 winners. They advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals and will host either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC in the first leg on Sunday afternoon.
The Revolution’s rollercoaster campaign, meanwhile, ends in frustration.
“I thought we had a lot of good chances to make it 2-0, which I think really would’ve put us in a strong position,” said Chris Tierney. “Unfortunately we didn’t take those chances and then we conceded a soft one on a set piece.
“A few lapses in concentration cost us games this year. They did tonight, as well. It’s very disappointing, but it’s the situation we put ourselves in … We played ourselves into this situation. A one-game playoff is not a good situation to be in. You put yourself at risk of losing one game.”
Plenty of New England’s frustration was reserved for themselves, but much was aimed at Mark Geiger, as well. The referee found himself at the center of controversy on a big occasion, most notably with a pair of handballs – one that was called and one that wasn’t.
Geiger pointed to the spot in the 74th minute when he judged Scott Caldwell to have handled Alvaro Saborio’s cross, despite being at close range with little time to react. Rolfe missed the ensuing penalty.
In the second minute of stoppage time, however, with the Revolution desperately searching for an equalizer to save their season, Geiger declined to point to the spot when Sean Franklin similarly handled the ball as it came off Jermaine Jones’ foot inside the box.
After the game Geiger told a pool reporter that he elected not to award the Revolution a penalty kick because Franklin’s arm was in a natural position and he didn’t have time to react, but the Revs weren’t exactly buying that explanation, particularly after Caldwell had been whistled for a similar infraction.
“That’s the dagger,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “I just felt like after we scored, we were playing against another group out there, as well.
“Guys are pretty upset about the way the game was managed from the referee. It really felt like there were at least two penalties at the end of that game. You don’t get it, so the frustration boils over.”
Jones was particularly frustrated about the non-call, confronting Geiger and receiving a second yellow card, resulting in his ejection from the game. Afterwards, Jones apologized for his reaction but reiterated his bewilderment that one infraction was called, but not the other.
But he wasn’t the only Revolution player left bemused by the referee. Agudelo, scorer of the opening goal, was forced out of the game with an injury in the 70th minute after D.C. defender Bobby Boswell apparently sent a knee into Agudelo’s hamstring away from the ball.
Boswell was issued a yellow card for “unsporting behavior.”
“I’m not the kind of guy that goes into the media and goes off, but I’ve never been disrespected like that in a game before,” said the normally reserved Agudelo. “What hurts the most is that it took me out of the game, and he didn’t even get a red card for it. If it’s a foul, it’s either a red card, or nothing.
“He put his knee right on my hamstring and took me out of the game. I was limping when I was coming off. I wasn’t faking it. Off the ball. I didn’t even expect it. It felt like I got shot. Cheap shot.”
All of the Revolution’s frustrations were compounded, of course, by the fact that a season with such promise fell by the wayside with an unexpected early playoff exit.
“It’s tough and frustrating, simply put,” said Agudelo. “It’s tough and it’s frustrating on the guys. We had a really, really good team going into this.”