The ejection of a player can dramatically change both the tactics and thought process of both coaches in a game.
It is not uncommon to find the team going a man down go on the defensive (strengthen their back line & midfield; perhaps playing with one less attacking player), where the team now a man up going on the offensive (pushing forward more; taking advantage of it's numerical superiority).
This past weekend saw four red cards issued in Major League Soccer (MLS) matches, and as Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney reported, provided different results in each.
Los Angeles (versus Colorado) and Columbus (versus Chivas USA) each went down a man and ended up losing. D.C. United lost Jaime Moreno with 19 minutes to play, but preserved its 1-0 lead over Houston. Chicago ignored the ejection of John Thorrington in the 14th minute of a scoreless game to beat New York, 1-0.
"Usually, you see teams that are a man down take an attacking player off but I just felt tonight our guys you could see it in their step and their movement that they wanted this win and I just felt like for that half I was going to leave the group out there for the first half," said Fire head coach Denis Hamlett.
Give Hamlett credit for keeping his foot on the gas in this situation. To lose a player that early in the game and go on the defensive would have not only put his team under a lot of pressure (probably having to play the final 75 minutes out of their own half of the field), but also have his players dejected about essentially 'giving up' on trying to win.
Thorrington received his red card for fouling Macoumba Kandji after the Red Bull attacker had slipped past Fire defender Wilman Conde and set sail for goal. Pappa scored for Chicago in the 33rd minute. At halftime, with a 1-0 lead, Hamlett made his adjustment by taking off midfielder Justin Mapp and bringing on defender Brandon Prideaux. Two more subs in the second half helped his defense hold serve and win out.
The timing of the sending off of Dema Kovalenko couldn't have come at a worse time for the LA Galaxy. The volatile midfielder was sent off in the 59th minute of a game tied, 2-2, which enabled the Rapids to intensify their pressure on two young Galaxy defenders, Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez, and ultimately win the game.
Conor Casey scored the winning goal and polished off his hat trick by running onto a feed from Colin Clark, who had stripped Franklin of the ball in midfield. Gonzalez challenged Clark - perhaps to trap Casey offside -- when a wiser course would have been to drop and wait for help. Teammate Tony Sanneh had tracked back and Casey, not offside, dribbled in alone, evaded keeper Josh Saunders, and tucked home the winning goal from a sharp angle.
Columbus defender Andy Iro's savage tackle earned his red card early in the second half, just a few minutes after Chivas USA had regained the lead, 2-1. Down a goal and down a man left the defending MLS Cup champs at a serious disadvantage.
D.C. United veteran Jaime Moreno slid into Brad Davis from behind just a few minutes after entering the game as a substitute, resulting in an immediate ejection. DC United Coach Tom Soehn brought on an extra defender, and though Houston gained plenty of possession and Davis hit the crossbar, it couldn't break through United's 4-4-1 formation. United had just enough energy and luck to garner its first victory of the season and keep Houston winless.
In each of the four matches, the dynamics of the game were changed by a red card. Due to some sharp tactics by both Hamlett and Soehn, the results of the game weren't.