MLS New England Revolution

Sweeney: Gonzales had a ‘mare in the middle Saturday night, but he was right in dismissing Polster

I have a few personal mottos: Be prolific or starve is one of them, and that one is rather important to a freelance writer such as myself. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag is another (yeah, I stole that one).

But in the world of sportswriting, I’ve always tried to live by this one: Don’t criticize referees. Referees do not win or lose games, regardless of the sport. Players and coaches do. I’ve been a referee/umpire before, I’ve been a coach before; referees do not win or lose games for a team.

I’m going to sway from that for just a moment here: On Saturday night, referee Guido Gonzales, Jr. had an absolute nightmare of a match in the middle of the Revolution and Philadelphia.

He was, as both Brad Feldman and Charlie Davies suggested during the NBC Sports Boston broadcast, rather inconsistent in dispensing justice. Infractions that were fouls on the Revolution weren’t called against the Union, and vice versa. Go on, think back to how many times you screamed at your television Saturday night.

And yes, there were some egregious errors around the hour mark, when there were Union players sitting on a yellow card who should have been booked for a second time, making their further participation in the match a non-issue.

However, we feel Gonzales was correct in issuing a second yellow to Revolution midfielder Matt Polster. Polster needed to be smarter in that situation. You’re playing on a yellow, and you can’t foul from behind. It was a dumb foul, and Gonzales rightly issued a second yellow and dismissed him from the match.

Revolution coach Bruce Arena partially agreed — and had a criticism.

“Certainly, (the red card) changes the complexion of the game,” he said. “I think an experienced referee knows not to send a player off on a foul like that. If that’s the case, he probably would’ve sent off two players from Philadelphia with similar type of fouls playing with yellow cards. Really not a smart play by Polster, a player playing with a yellow card. In that game, they know the kind of referee that’s doing the game. You could be sent off because of the lack of experience that referee has. No excuses. I think Polster made a foolish play – losing the ball and then a foul – despite the fact that I think the referee was absolutely incorrect.”

And we can be honest and say that Polster should know better, especially having played in this league prior to his move to Scotland two years ago. Things that you can get away with in Scotland, you can’t get away with here in the United States. This may be a rough and tumble league, MLS, but referees have been known to go to the pocket for stuff like that. It means you as a defender need to stay in front of your man, even if on the half turn, and be as fast — if not faster — than your man. Polster was fully deserving of that second yellow, end of story.

That card put New England in a bit of bother for the final half an hour-plus of Saturday match — and will mean Polster misses next Saturday’s match with New York City FC (4:30 p.m., NBC Sports Boston) through suspension. And if you will recall, the Revs looked disjointed and out of position late in the match against the Pigeons during their visit a couple of weeks ago.

More than likely, Arena will go with Scott Caldwell in place of Polster next Saturday. Caldwell had his own difficulties against Philadelphia, as Brenden Aaronson had blown by him and made the cross that led to the opening goal. Maybe it’ll be Kelyn Rowe, who had a standout game Saturday. Maybe Diego Fagundez at holding mid. Maybe Lee Nguyen. Maybe Tommy McNamara.

Say what you will about Gonzales not issuing second yellows to the Union players. Go on, say it. I honestly have no problem with it. It doesn’t mean that Jim Curtin wouldn’t have brought on Anthony Fontana, whose goals gave Philadelphia all three points; Curtin only had so much from which to choose off the bench Saturday night. And we won’t get into a failing to close down on Fontana or Fagundez’s partial “clearance” on the corner kick.

Maybe, just maybe, if Polster hadn’t lost his man, maybe if Polster hadn’t fouled from behind, maybe the discussion wouldn’t be on Gonzales and the job he did — or didn’t do.

And maybe I wouldn’t have to go against my sportswriting motto again.