Overall, referee Lorant Varga did a good job in Sunday’s match between the Swope Park Rangers and Saint Louis FC. He communicated to the players, was fairly consistent in his calls and handed out of enough cards to keep tempers in the rivalry match from going out of control. He also did well in pushing the Rangers to not time waste when they had the lead.
Perhaps the case could be made for an earlier card or two but really there were two moments where he may have missed something. In both cases the angle he was observing from and the amount of other activity would have made it difficult to catch.
Red card should have been two?
In the 90th minute, Swope Park was up 2-1 and doing their best to keep the ball on the other end of the field. Keeper John Pulskamp sent a long ball up the field where a Saint Louis FC player headed it back towards the Swope Park end.
Midfielder Felipe Hernandez raced towards the ball but Bradley Kamdem Fewo got there a split second earlier, winning the ball and moving it forward towards a team mate. In the tackle, Fewo appeared to get a high leg in on Hernandez.
When the play was stopped a moment later and as Hernandez ran past, Fewo shoved him. Hernandez initially offered his hand but after some words were exchanged he dropped it. Then some arms were raised and a red card was quickly issued to Hernandez.
Neither Hernandez nor his teammates seemed to argue the ejection but were instead pointing out that he was not the only one worthy of being sent off.
The main angle and the one that was probably similar to referee Lorant Varga’s view showed Hernandez appear to slap at (and probably contact) Fewo. What was difficult to see was Fewo put his hand on Hernandez’s neck and face area.
Here is the Felipe red. Very dumb but you can see Fewo puts his right hand on Hernandez's left cheek too. Felipe's reaction is just so much more dramatic it's no surprise he saw red. If VAR existed in USL they may have both had reds. #SPRvSTL #SPRBelieve pic.twitter.com/YPMNHM4fnQ— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) June 30, 2019
After the match, both Hernandez and head coach Paulo Nagamura responded to questions about the incident.
“I haven’t seen a replay yet but what I saw is that a player for Saint Louis grabbed Felipe on the face. I didn’t see the rest of it. I need to see the video. My feeling was that if Felipe is getting the red the Saint Louis player did enough in my opinion to get a red as well. So, in my opinion it was unfair in that aspect.” - Paulo Nagamura
“It was just a little incident. He put his hands up and out of reaction my first instinct was push him away. My hands went up to his face. I would say if (the referee’s) going to punish me, he’s got to punish both of us. Me getting a red and him getting a yellow was kind of harsh.” - Felipe Hernandez
Nagamura and Hernandez did not try to justify his actions nor did they say that the red card was undeserved, just that there should have been one for both players. Another angle appeared that shows Fewo grabbing Hernandez’s throat, bolstering their case that Hernandez was not the only one deserving a red.
The referee did consult the assistant referee and then gave a yellow to Fewo. Typically any grabbing of the face/neck area results in a red card also and the assistant referee would have had a better angle of the incident but apparently did not see it or deem it red worthy.
If there was VAR, there would have been a good case for review.
Contact with the ball boy
The other incident occurred in stoppage time, as Saint Louis was working to level the score a ball went out for a corner. The ball boys behind the goal and the one on the side near the corner were trying to communicate which one to use.
They were probably being a little slow about it but the player that was going to take the corner was still walking to the flag when Saint Louis #10 Albert Dikwa jumped the end video board and tried to take the ball from the ball boy.
The ball boy was in the process of throwing the ball to the corner when Dikwa made contact.
The contact was light and nobody was injured but it is still something that should not happen and should probably receive a yellow.
The referee was most likely dealing with the players starting to jockey for position prior to the corner but should keep an eye out for whenever a player is interacting with a ball kid.
The game did make for good rivalry fuel between the two USL Championship sides and when Saint Louis FC is awarded a team in MLS, Sporting Kansas City and Saint Louis will already have some history.