FOXBOROUGH – From a distance, it could have passed for a header. Up close, it was obviously a volleyball spike.
Down, 1-0, in the 84th minute to Toronto FC, the Revolution were scrambling. Jerry Bengtson got off a header that looked like it would tie the game, but Toronto goalie Milos Kocic punched it to the right side.
Benny Feilhaber chased down the rebound and tried to back-heel it at the mouth of the goal. Shalrie Joseph was closest to it, but not close enough to make the play he wanted.
“I thought it was going in, but the back-heel was a little too high,” Joseph said. “I was just trying to get a body part on it, and it was a little too high for me, and the only thing I could get was my hand [on the ball].”
There was a celebration, an explosion, a small dust-up between Joseph and Toronto midfielder Terry Dunfeld (who after going at it all night finally earned yellow cards), and for a brief moment the goal was posted on the Gillette Stadium scoreboard.
But referee Hilariio Grajeda saw the handball as clear as day. It was obvious to Toronto coach Paul Mariner, too, but after being stunned by the Revolution with a 94th-minute equalizer less than three weeks ago, he had reason to worry.
“You always fear for the worst,” Mariner said. “But we saw it was a handball and fortunately the referee saw it.”
The goal was waved off, and the Revolution ate a 1-0 loss to Toronto, their first home loss since April 14. Even with seven minutes of extra time, the Revolution couldn’t muster late-game magic again.
“I tried to sneak one in, but it didn’t work out for me,” Joseph said. “After that it was just frustrating trying to find the equalizer all night.”
The Revolution had both their five-game unbeaten streak and seven-game home unbeaten streak snapped. It was also the first time in the all-time series that either team has come away with a win on the other’s home field.
The Reds struck in the eighth minute, when Luis Silva made a quick move to slice through the Revolution’s back line then finished with a roller that found the right corner for his second score of the season.
“It was a bit of a loose ball, and they pounced on it,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
Because of the one-game suspension Kelyn Rowe had to serve after a reckless challenge against New York last week, Heaps had to tweak his lineup, calling on Fernando Cardenas to start for just the fifth time this season. But six minutes into the game, he had to make another adjustment when Stephen McCarthy crashed into Toronto forward Ryan Johnson and was forced to leave the game with concussion-like symptoms.
Heaps went with Joseph, who missed the first meeting with Toronto because of an abductor strain and came off the bench last week against New York because of a knee sprain.
Said Joseph, “It’s kind of something that you have to be ready for. McCarthy going down like that definitely hurt our team a little bit. He’s been playing unbelievable games and he’s finally starting to step into that role of center back. But being on the bench, you’ve got to be ready to play at any time.’’
A frustrated Joseph called out Dunfeld and Richard Eckersley for stalling, saying, “We were just pushing trying to get the equalizer and we noticed — I noticed personally — that they were just wasting time. Twelve minutes into the second half, we were just pushing numbers and creating chances over and over and they started talking about how they need a break and the guy [Dunfeld or Eckersley] went down on purpose. He wasn’t injured, he just went down to kill our momentum and kill time in the game. I didn’t like that. I didn’t think it was very sportsmanlike of him.”
Both teams were fighting for their own reasons, Toronto to get out of the cellar, New England to stay in the playoff hunt. It made the atmosphere tense. The game had 20 fouls (15 on Toronto) and four yellow cards (three on Toronto).
“I think it’s clear what was happening,” Heaps said. “We were trying to play and we’re getting fouled and you just want that to be taken care of early so the game doesn’t turn into what happened in the second half, where no one on their team has a yellow card except for one player, who they sub out. Now they have an entire team free and able to chop anyone down and kill the play whenever they can.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.