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Sporting seeing more red than most of MLS

Charles Gooch
The Kansas City Star

In the last two games, Sporting Kansas City has been shown two red cards -- one to Roger Espinoza, the other to Omar Bravo. Both were straight red cards shown for aggressive sliding tackles.

On the season, Sporting have seen red 7 times. That's tied with New England for most in MLS. Bravo has seen red twice, which ties him for second with AJ Soares (New England) and Bobby Burling (San Jose). Vancouver's Eric Hassli has been shown 3 red cards -- more than total reds shown to Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, New York, Portland and Seattle this season.

After last night's red to Bravo, Sporting's boss didn't hold back his opinions.

"We have been under this so many times this season — red cards or non-calls on penalty kicks — at some point, it has to change," Peter Vermes said. "As much as players are responsible and coaches are responsible when things don't go well — they either don’t play or get released — the referees seem to keep coming back.

"But bad performances should not constitute the opportunity to come back on the field and referee a professional game. If you're not good, you're not, and you shouldn't be out there. You need to go back down somewhere else, just like we do with players sometimes when we send them off to a lower division."

I expect a fine of some sort is in order for those comments. I would also suspect MLS would explore disciplinary action against Bravo for his "simulation" after he was shown a red card. (Unless he was falling because of Pat Noonan's breath, there was no contact on the alleged "headbutt.")

I've gone through MLS's archives on the season to find all 7 of KC's red cards. (Kansas City have seen just 3 red cards against them this year, two in the Houston game.) Kansas City are 2-4-1 in these 7 games. It's worth noting KC have allowed 6 goals this season while down a man against 3 goals scored when down a man.

Omar Bravo vs. Seattle, Aug. 6
This is a no-doubt red in my mind. He left his feet. If he doesn't leave his feet, maybe he can get by with a yellow card. But the letter of the law -- which you can argue isn't followed fluidly from ref-to-ref or game-to-game or even minute-to-minute -- says you can't leave your feet on a challenge. Update to change the wording, as it's not a "law" per-se. In lieu of the rash of leg breaks earlier this year, two-leg challenges where-in the player leaves his feet are being adjudicated in a much more serious fashion by MLS refs.

As a commenter has already noted, the "law" states: "Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play."

As you probably know, "excessive force" and "endangering the safety of an opponent" are both subject to he view of the referee. If you leave your feet for a studs-up challenge (which Bravo did), it really doesn't matter if he won the ball first. The ref saw "excessive force" and/or "endangering the safety of an opponent."

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Roger Espinoza vs. Real Salt Lake, Aug. 3
This, I feel, is a reputation red. Espinoza is a red card waiting to happen some games, and he got caught in this one. Should've been a yellow and a stern warning.

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Milos Stojcev vs. Dallas
Stojcev made two tackles in this game -- both earned yellows. While the tackle that sent him off was petulant and deserving of a reprimand, his first wasn't.

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Jimmy Nielsen vs. Chicago Fire, June 9
Nielsen felt after the game that he had no choice but to handle the ball with his hands out of the box. He may have been right, as Chicago didn't score on the ensuing freekick and the game ended scoreless.

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Aurelien Collin vs. New England Revolution, April 23
Oddly enough, the video of this has been scrubbed from the highlights. Curious. Collin was given a red card after the ref judged him to have "shoved" a Revolution player during a scrum. It wasn't him; Birahim Diop actually "shoved" Benny Feilhaber -- who did his part pretending that he was just run over by a Mercedes. After the game, Major League Soccer reversed its decision and suspended Diop instead.

Julio Cesar vs. Columbus, April 16
This was given for a "handball," though the Brazilian was having an awful game and made a few questionable tackles.

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Omar Bravo vs. Chicago, March 26
While contact is definitely made, I still believe that it's Bravo that gets to the ball first. Though, I'll at least grant that this is a really tough call.

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By my count: Three are justifiable reds (Bravo vs. Seattle, Nielsen and Espinoza) three are questionable (Bravo vs. Chicago, Cesar and Stojcev), and one was an out-right farce.

It could be that there's a conspiracy against Sporting (unlikely). Or maybe it's only random happenstance (a little less likely). Or maybe it could be that Sporting are prone to tackling a bit rougher/physically than most teams (factually accurate) and are developing a reputation around the league that draws the attention of the ref (partly to blame I think).

Or maybe, just maybe, Sporting KC aren't great at tackling (also, probably factually accurate).

What do you think?

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