Donnelly: Sporting KC Loses In Chicago 3-2, Bravo Issued Questionable Red Card

Scrambling to piece together a lineup prior to Saturday’s contest at the Chicago Fire, Sporting KC boss Peter Vermes was forced toJimmy Nielsen, Omar Bravo refute decision construct a starting XI unlike any other he’s used over the past few seasons.  Between injuries and national team call-ups, SKC was without Julio Cesar (starting center back), Michael Harrington (starting right back), Shavar Thomas (defender), Luke Sassano (defender), Kei Kamara (starting forward), and Ryan Smith (forward). 

Vermes did the best he could by sliding left back Roger Espinoza into the center of defense alongsde Matt Besler, and sticking underachieving Chance Myers at left back, with newbie Scott Lorenz at the right back spot.  Also, Vermes used a 4-4-2 formation instead of the normal 4-3-3. 

Recipe for disaster?  Yeah, kind of… 

Chicago came out the more aggressive side in the first ten minutes, dictating the flow of the game and holding the majority of the possession.  But KC gradually found their footing and the sides looked somewhat equal just prior to Chicago’s first goal, which came on a questionable penalty and red card.

As SKC attacked pushing men up the field, Chicago regained possession and played a long ball through the heart of Sporting’s defense finding a streaking Gaston Puerari.  Showing his commitment and work ethic, striker Omar Bravo worked to catch the striker – and did – but contacted Puerari slightly with his left arm and at the same time, lunged at the ball, which Bravo contacted cleanly, clearing it over the end line.

The linesman immediately called for a corner, but after a lengthy consultation with the other officials, and a heated debate with many SKC players, a penalty was awarded and Bravo was issued a red card.  From the replay, it is clear that Bravo contacted the ball cleanly, and certainly he touched Puepari in the upper body a bit, but probably not enough to even call it a foul, let alone a red card-able offense. 

Vermes was irate, and he hadn’t changed his mind by the time the post-game interviews were conducted.  "“It’s not a red card, it is not even a penalty," lamented Vermes.  "Omar goes in, and at the same time he’s giving the guy a little shoulder and he kicks the ball out-of-bounds himself.  The guy didn’t even take a shot.  The [linesman] points to the corner, not to a penalty.  Okay, so the center referee always takes precedence over the other guys, but he has to be 100% sure.  So not only does he turn it into a penalty, but a red card.  Now you’re already behind the eight ball, not once but twice.  So it really changed the outcome of the game I think, that call in itself." 

Sporting KC v Chicago Fire DLDespite going down to ten men, SKC battled admirably the remainder of the match, notching two goals of their own.  The first came from defender Matt Besler on an unconventional corner that was first played short to the corner of the box, then back in to the far post, taking advantage of the Fire back line’s attempt to step their lineup.

Also getting on the scorecard was Teal Bunbury, who gave SKC a real lift off the bench.  He seems to pair very nicely with rookie CJ Sapong.  Teal took advantage of a bad back pass from a Fire defender, stealing the ball and professionally finishing his breakaway chance.

But two goals was not enough to make up for a couple defensive lapses that led to two more goals for Chicago.  The Fire tallied their second goal when new SKC acquisition Milos Stojchev failed to step up with the rest of the KC back line and kept Puerari onside.  A little slip through, and Puerari did not waste his 1 v 1 chance.  Similar to the mistake made by Sapong last week which also led to a goal, these kinds of mental mistakes are simply unacceptable.

Chicago’s third goal left the KC defensive line looking confused.  Fire striker Marco Pappa received the ball in the middle and proceeded to dribble his way through four or five KC defenders before burying a low shot in the corner of the net.  Communication seemed an issue on this play, as several Sporting defenders seemed to back off, thinking that someone else would challenge for the ball.  But no one did, and Pappa waltzed his way right through the center of the defense to put Chicago in firm control.  Even he was a bit surprised, saying, "It was a lucky goal because the ball bounced off my foot about seven times.  When I saw the ball in front of me, I took the shot and I was happy it went in.”    

So what can Sporting take away from this match, which was overshadowed by an iffy red card that took away the best player on the team, Omar Bravo, and a few more of those pesky defensive lapses?  “If you look at the way we battled back, it’s a positive.  It hurts to lose.  That’s never good," said Matt Besler.  "If you’re going to try and take something out of the game, it’s the way we battled back with ten men and made it a game."

On a side note, team captain Davy Arnaud picked up his second yellow card in as many games for committing a bad intentional foul that could have easily been a red card.  Knowing that he was beat on a give and go, Arnaud side kicked the man making the run as he came through, making contact high on the thigh of the Chicago player. 

At this point, I have to question if Arnaud is the right man for the captaincy.  He showed last year his tendency for being a hot head, picking up unnecessary cards and putting his team at a disadvantage.  Add to that the fact that he has often become invisible on the field over the last season and beginning of this one – not a trait you want to see in a center midfielder.

Sporting Kansas City’s next game is this Saturday, April 2nd, at the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps.  The game is at 6 pm, and will be televised locally by KSMO-TV
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5 Responses to Donnelly: Sporting KC Loses In Chicago 3-2, Bravo Issued Questionable Red Card

  1. % says:

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment on the red card. On a break like that one, as a defender you’re better off letting the striker take his chances one-on-one with your goalie. Challenges by the last defender on a breaking attacker will get called every time, even if the contact looks mild. And the red cards come flying on plays like that, as they should.

    The bigger question for SKC is why Bravo is in the position of being the last defender on a play like that. It’s clear the team still has major issues with its center defensive play.

    As for the SKC line up, why can’t MLS look at a calender and take a week off like every other major league does when there’s a full slate of international qualifiers and friendlies on the schedule? I mean, some call ups are inevitable, but it seemed that most of the globe had games running the last three days.

  2. Matt says:

    Some valid points, %
    I agree that those breakaways will get called often, even when the contact is minimal. But if you saw the replay, Bravo really did get the ball cleanly, and the sideline ref who had the best angle on the play called it for a corner.

    Not sure why Bravo was the one who made it back there, but I will say he has a tremendous work ethic and gives his all from what I have seen so far. Granted (especially with that mangled lineup) there are still some issues at the back.

  3. Markus Aurelius says:

    you’re crazy — that should NOT have been a red card.
    Yes, red cards often come on plays where the defender gets beat and attempts to make a play from behind HOWEVER this was not your typical defensive attempt to correct. Bravo made a clean play on the ball other than the very light touch on the back of the left shoulder. Definitely not a red-cardable offense. If you want to overrule the corner and award a penalty – I can live with it even though it’s the wrong call but calling a red card on that was inexcusable since it unnecessarily impacts the results on the field. I expect MLS will review and indicate that the call on the field was in error — it doesn’t help SKC in the standings but it’s the right thing to do.

  4. % says:

    Actually, I am crazy. But I don’t think my bipolar disorder affects my judgment of soccer calls as long as I’m properly medicated. I haven’t watched a replay in detail since Saturday, but you’re right, he did pick the ball cleanly. But I’m not sure that it was a “very light” on the back. I suppose we can agree to disagree on that point.

    I doubt MLS makes a review, much less an acknowledgment of error. I don’t think the league wants to send the message that fouls and cards called against defenders taking out attackers are a thing that the league is OK with.

  5. legendaryhog says:

    Not even debatable
    The penalty call and subsequent red card were simply horrible calls. An out of position referee didn

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