I’m working on a U.S.-Mexico piece for SI.com; I will file it first thing Tuesday and it should be up shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, a quick word about something that happened in Kansas City over the weekend:
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes is hopping mad about a red card shown to Omar Bravo. I understand that the heat is on, and that SKC is trying to hatchet its way through the regular season thick, attempting to work its way toward the playoff clearing. So emotions do become frayed.
But his timing stinks, and a sense of his own culpability is missing.
Here’s what Vermes had to say to KansasCity.com:
“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. 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.”
He’s got it right. But he’s also got it wrong. Read on ...
U.S. Soccer, which assigns games, keeps rolling out some of the same guys who make mistakes. (And in some cases, guys who aren’t fit, which contributes to poor positioning on the field, which leads to poor decisions).
But let’s talk about coaches’ rolls in all this, because Vermes and Sporting KC bear some responsibility, too. I’ll sum it up in one name: Roger Espinoza.
No coach who plays this guy gets to complain about red cards. Espinoza is, in my opinion, the most dangerous man in MLS. He’s a broken leg waiting to happen. Referee Jasen Anno should be removed from the pool, in my opinion, for allowing Espinoza to repeatedly hack and scythe away at Chivas USA players four weeks ago. (Anno was in the middle of another big ol’ muddle over the weekend.)
I personally watched one horrible Espinoza tackle incite a full donnybrook earlier this year, with two full teams coming together and squaring off. And that was during a preseason friendly! Center back Aurélien Collin can be pretty nasty, too.
Bravo’s tackle Saturday that put Vermes in such a twist? Yep, it was a red. Bravo lunged with both feet into Seattle’s Pat Noonan. That’s textbook stuff.
Further, Vermes really shouldn’t be making an issue of refereeing when Bravo behaved so disgracefully in the aftermath, trying to get Noonan sent off with something best described as simulation through play-acting that was community theater-level at very best. Ooof.
Vermes’ post-game rant also obscures his own team’s collapse. SKC was a man down for the last 30 minutes, most of which was spent in a defensive crouch, bent on protecting a slim 1-0 lead. At home! I said to myself in about the 75th minute, “They’re too defensive. That’s a mistake.” A man down while playing at home is tough, but it’s not a death sentence. D.C. United played a man down for 80 minutes and managed a 3-3 draw.
Seattle scored in the 90th and 92nd minute as Sporting Kansas City fell apart, finishing off that 14-game unbeaten streak that was a little bit of a mirage, anyway, rescued repeatedly by late heroics and some good fortune. Where was the censure for his players’ inability to see out a lead, or for his own unwise tactics?
The point is, make your comments and opinions about refereeing if you will – but pick your spots. Vermes chose poorly in this case.