Playing a man down doesn't necessarily turn into a travesty. There are enough examples of teams winning games they weren't leading when one of their own had no choice but to make an early exit. It can be done, short-handed isn't just for ice hockey. That doesn't mean it's easy. Then again, it's also not a built-in excuse for capitulating.
Week 19 of the Major League Soccer season brought us two unnecessary examples of what can happen when a team draws the attention of the referee. Both were disasters for the teams going down a man. Real Salt Lake lost by five goals, DC United by four.
RSL coach Jason Kreis called it like he saw it. "Some of our guys sleep-walked through the game tonight," he said. "It doesn’t get much bigger than this game and I don’t know how our guys didn’t get up for it.”
It's not just 'getting up for it,' it's recognizing that bad things can and will happen over the course of 90 minutes. RSL offered up an advantage, but it was just that... an advantage. Instead of countering their own mistake, Salt Lake made it much worse. DC United had more of an excuse - a goalkeeper sent off instead of a defensive midfielder - but both teams have the personnel to score goals. As simple as it seems, that's the best way to counter a sending off. Score with ten men. Play like you've been treated unfairly and now have to take the game.
"I thought that we could have been angrier," DC United coach Ben Olsen said. "I thought our shape could have been better and simply just keep the game 1-0 as long as you can. We got a little stretched, we got impatient, not everybody was working as hard as they could, so that was alarming and we will address that."
That's the key here. Red cards aren't so out of the ordinary that a team should be surprised when they're shown. Prepare for it. Figure out who does what both with the players on the field and with the available substitutions. Continue to play your game. Instead, we got two multi-goal examples of teams unable to play a man down.
Corner Rating: (with 1 MLS teams showing that 10-men isn't a disadvantage and 11 more teams unable to cope) 5.
Last Week's Corner: No choice but to keep it at 4 since we don't know who will start the All-Star Game.