ATLANTA – Wednesday night’s visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium started to slip away from the New England Revolution just 70 seconds after the opening whistle, when Atlanta United FC took a 1-0 lead through Josef Martinez.
But what unfolded from there bordered on the unthinkable. Video Review saw Xavier Kouassi sent off in just the 16th minute. Martinez then bagged his second from the penalty spot in the 31st minute. Eight minutes later, another Video Review saw Antonio Delamea sent off and awarded Atlanta a second penalty kick, which Martinez dispatched for a 3-0 lead.
It was, perhaps, the most chaotic first half in Revolution history, and it was compounded by Atlanta’s relentless attack in the late stages as the hosts had scored seven times by the final whistle.
“I don’t think anyone’s seen anything like it, because [Video Review] just came into play,” said head coach Jay Heaps, who noted that he thought both penalty calls were correct, but called the Kouassi red card “a reach” based on the replay. “It is what it is. We’re in a new age, a new era.
“It’s not pleasant. We’ve got to learn our lesson.”
Heaps was reticent to make excuses, however, pointing to the second-minute goal as a killer.
“The biggest mistake that we had tonight was giving up the goal in the [second] minute, because we were prepared for them, ready for them, and we took a bad approach to that first goal,” Heaps said. “That’s unfortunate, because that derailed the rest of the game.”
By halftime the nine-man Revs trailed 4-0, and with a visit to Sporting Kansas City looming on Saturday night, New England’s objective became damage limitation. For a period to start the second half the Revs held off their rampant hosts, but a late surge helped Atlanta put a crooked number on the scoreboard.
“At that point, at halftime, it was never going to go our way,” said goalkeeper Cody Cropper. “Our goal was to get through the game … We were down two men for the better part of 60 minutes, and that’s taxing for the players that are running around on the field. That’s hard.
“For me, standing in goal, all I could do was just continue to talk to them and continue to try to help them get through it, because they’re out there working very hard. It was just a tough scenario to be in.”
Now the Revs will be without both Delamea and Kouassi as they head straight to Kansas City for Saturday night’s meeting with Sporting KC, and they have no choice but to wipe the midweek debacle from their memories as they recover ahead of the weekend.
“Speaking for all the guys, we’re really embarrassed,” said Andrew Farrell, who started the game at left back. “That’s not how we wanted it to go. But at the same time, we can’t make it two (losses in a row). We’ve got to get ready for Kansas City.”
“This game’s done,” said Cropper. “It’s in the past and we, as a group, have moved on. I think the next 48 hours are huge. We need to take care of our bodies, recover mentally, and really just forget that this game happened.”