We're only five games into 2011, and three Sporting Kansas City players have seen a red card. For comparison: Only four red cards were shown to Sporting in all of 2010.
In addition to the reds, KC have picked up 13 yellow cards (Michael Harrington has three in just three games!) and committed 81 fouls this season.
As manager Peter Vermes said after Saturday's 3-2 loss in New England: It's hard to win when you're down to 10-men. Not surprisingly, KC haven't won any of the three games in which they've gone down a man.
So, what's behind the high-number of red cards?
Bad luck? Julio Cesar was booked early in the second-half of the Columbus game for a foul that wasn't; then drew his second yellow for a handball. Omar Bravo was given a straight red from a harsh decision by the ref against Chicago. And, of course, the Aurelien Collin red seems like an apparent case of mistaken identity.*
Aggressive play? Two of the red cards (Cesar against Columbus and Collin in New England) were earned by players who had already picked up a yellow for physical play.** Both players should've played slightly less aggressively given the effect a red usually has on a team. Or at the very least, calmed down knowing they were on the mind of the ref.
When teams play aggressively (which KC does) and tackle frequently (which KC does -- only three teams in MLS committed more fouls than KC in 2010), the referee is often more disposed to book you; it's why the persistent infringement rule exists. It's a referee's warning that you need to step off or at least dial it back a bit.
Of course, aggressive has its advantages. The team has benefited in the form of a near-league high amount of goals because of this form of play this year.
But here's the long-term rub: Kansas City also are developing certain reputations: I've jokingly given the "Red Card" nickname to both Roger Espinoza and Craig Rocastle; Harrington has three yellow cards in three games; Davy Arnaud was ejected three times last season and is a persistent yellow waiting to happen; CJ Sapong and Birahim Diop are both prone to sturdy aerial challenges and lead the team with 8 fouls committed; and Aurelien Collin played most of Saturday like certain Revs said not kind things about his sister.
Vermes likes the aggressive play. He wants his team to fight and be physical. But... is it a detriment to the team?
I don't think it is, yet. I think a few players (notably Cesar and Collin) need to adjust to the physicality and referee standards (oxymoron?) here in the States. But I am worried about the developing reputation and how it could hamper them in the future.
I've argued a little bit on both sides, but I'd love to hear your thoughts so far: Does KC have a developing discipline problem? Or is this just a series of bad breaks?