One of the most anticipated matchups of the weekend that just went by was the San Jose-Real Salt Lake tilt. It may not have gone the way RSL wanted but the match did indeed live up to the billing - two red cards, four goals, including a stoppage-time winner, and drama throughout was what this game produced.
Unfortunately, it also produced some controversy which I don't quite understand.
Nobody is ever happy with a red card. Players will usually protest no matter what, even if the call seems obvious to anyone watching the game. Still, both of these red cards were textbook calls.
Fabian Espindola went in with a cleats-up two-footed tackle on Sam Cronin. That's pretty blatant. He didn't even seem to protest it too much. The second call was even more apparent and blatant yet that's the one that drew the ire of RSL and other observers.
On the play, Steven Lenhart got loose on a breakaway. Jamison Olave tried to catch up but knocked Lenhart over as the 'Quakes forward got close to the penalty area. Whistle blew, free kick given, red card flashed. It's a fairly straightforward call; Olave denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
Replays... gotta love replays. On replays, Lenhart is reaching behind and grabs Olave's shorts. Perhaps this is where the controversy was ignited.
Well, here's probably the view the match official had:
How is he supposed to see Lenhart grabbing anything? He's not, so why be upset with the call? Not only was the referee or anybody else on the field save for Nick Rimando going to see that, but it was not the cause of the fall. Lenhart was going down regardless of what he did with his hand. Olave was beaten on the play, over-compensate for it and knocked Lenhart down in the process. That Lenhart grabbed anything was inconsequential.
Another call that drew some attention was the penalty kick awarded to Colorado late in their game against the LA Galaxy. Replays showed that there appeared to be minimal contact on the play, certainly not enough to cause Andre Akpan to fall. It looked like Akpan lunged for the ball with his foot and that's what caused him to fall, not contact from any Galaxy player.
Perhaps the situation could have been avoided if the referee would have waited a second or two to blow the whistle. Akpan got up off the ground and started to run back to get in position. No protest, no negative reaction, no nothing, just a failed chance and time to re-position.
A lot of times players make calls by their body language or reactions.
However, one thing that I did not like from that was the Galaxy players' reactions. I understand the nature of the play and how it could have cost the Galaxy the victory but that was absurd. It looked as if almost every Galaxy player took their turn at getting into the referee's face and yelling at him. That's poor sportsmanship and frankly unprofessional. Say what you will about the call or the officiating, but I expect more from players.
Team of the Week
Every week I'm supposed to submit my picks for MLS Team of the Week. It's really difficult to do so because I can't watch every game, and often times players who have strong performances don't score goals or get assists. So going off the score sheet doesn't exactly equate to making the Team of the Week. However, if a player scores the game-winning goal, that's a bit of a stronger case for inclusion.
Having given that brief disclaimer on part of what I go through in selecting this, here's what I submitted after the weekend's games:
G: Josh Saunders, LA Galaxy
D: Steven Beitashour, San Jose
D: Eric Brunner, Portland
D: Aurelien Collin, Sporting KC
D: Gonzalo Segares, Chicago
M: Khari Stephenson, San Jose
M: Lovel Palmer, Portland
M: Eddie Gaven, Columbus
M: Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
F: Chris Pontius, DC United
F: Reggie Lambe, Toronto FC