SANDY — Referee Yader Reyes must've had Fourth of July fever like everyone else Monday night.
He made sure the postgame Jason Kreis jersey retirement and fireworks show at Rio Tinto Stadium wasn't the only excitement when Real Salt Lake hosted New England. In one of the crazier matches in MLS this season, Reyes awarded two penalty kicks, two red cards and never seemed to be in control of a wild match that ended 3-3.
Only getting a point at home against the worst team in the Eastern Conference was an all-around disappointing result, but considering the circumstances it was a great draw.
"Fourth of July, fireworks, that's what you wanted, right?" said midfielder Andy Williams. "I'm sure the fans are pretty happy, ESPN is pretty happy."
RSL was reduced to 10 men just three minutes into the match on a curious Nat Borchers red card, and then proceeded to fall behind 2-0 within 16 minutes. In front of a passionate crowd of 16,139, it battled through the adversity, dominated possession and still got a result.
"My take away from the match is I'm really, really, really proud of the guys. I couldn't be prouder of the fight they put in," said Kreis. "To suffer a penalty kick and a red card decision in the first five minutes of a match, to go down two goals and a man and to fight the way they were and dominate the game … remarkable to say the least."
The entire complexion of the match changed in the third minute when Borchers was shown a red card on what replays seemed to show was a perfectly good challenge to break up Benny Feilhaber's one-on-one opportunity with goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
The ref deemed it was a last-man foul in the box, which resulted in a straight red card and a penalty kick.
Kreis declined comment after the match, but Reyes justified it afterward when he spoke with a representative of the media.
"At the moment, on the field, I saw him kicking the leg of Benny and subsequently the ball," said Reyes. "Usually things don't play in my mind forever. So it was made, done, over, move on."
Rajko Lekic easily chipped home the penalty kick to put the visitors ahead 1-0. Considering the Revolution had lost 5-0 and 6-0 in their last two visits to Rio Tinto Stadium, it was a great start.
The red card was Borchers' first in a Real Salt Lake uniform, and fastest a team history.
In the 16th minute, New England doubled the advantage on a 25-yard driven free kick from Chris Tierney that seemed to slip under Real Salt Lake's wall of players.
"I have to assume it went under the wall. … Obviously that's not good enough. The wall, never, never do you want them jumping. If somebody hits the ball over them and into the top corner, we can credit them. But if somebody hits the ball below them because we jumped, then we have questions to answer," said Kreis.
Despite only playing with 10 men, RSL was the better team during the remainder of the first half, and was rewarded in the 24th minute on a simple rebound finish from Will Johnson after Andy Williams' free kick bounced off the post.
RSL inserted Kyle Beckerman — who didn't start because he traveled back from his brother's wedding in Washington, D.C. on Monday — into the match at the half for Robbie Russell, which upped the energy level even more for a team that already believed it had been unjustly wronged.
Just nine minutes into the second half, the ref whistled New England's Kevin Alston for a handball in the box. Even though it seemed a pretty ticky-tacky call, there were no complaints from RSL as Alvaro Saborio stepped up and buried the PK to level the score at 2-2.
The Fourth of July fireworks weren't over though.
New England went back in front 3-2 in the 63rd minute after Jamison Olave lost his mark on a free kick and Shalrie Joseph capitalized by heading in a goal off the post.
"I'm really aggravated about the decision to give the free kick again. The second and third goals both come off of decisions by the referee to make free kicks when neither of which I think is a foul," said Kreis.
Despite the deficit, Williams said Real Salt Lake never panicked knowing it would have no problem creating chances with New England struggling to maintain possession all night. It got a big boost when Revs' defender Ryan Cochrane was sent off with his second yellow card in the 67th minute.
With the teams back on level terms, the dominance continued for RSL on a night it outshot New England 20-7.
Just seven minutes before the Revs would have earned their first road win of the season, second-half substitute Fabian Espindola clinically buried a 1-on-1 chance with Matt Reis after a wonderful through ball from Alvaro Saborio.