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Five Players Enter Sporting KC v Minnesota United on the Verge of Suspension

And four of them play for Sporting Kansas City.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City
MLS referee Nima Saghafi presents Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell (7) a yellow card as San Jose Earthquakes defender Marcos Lopez (27) lies on the ground during the match at Children’s Mercy Park.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS Cup Playoffs roared back to life in the Western Conference on Tuesday night as the Seattle Sounders squeaked by FC Dallas on a set piece goal. Now the Sounders will get two extra days rest as they wait for the winners of Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United on Thursday night.

Fans in the Pacific Northwest will be watching not only to see which team advances as Seattle would host Minnesota but have to travel to Kansas City, but they also wait to see if any players will get suspended. Either of these teams could go full Orlando City and start getting red cards left and right, but more likely another method of suspension is much closer.

For no logical reason, it takes simply a yellow card in back-to-back games for a player to be suspended. That won’t apply for MLS Cup, but it will apply in the Western Conference Finals. Here are the rules straight from Major League Soccer:

Yellow Card Accumulation During Audi MLS Cup Playoffs

Once the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs begin and up until MLS Cup (when playoff yellow card accumulation will again reset):

- A player receiving a yellow card in two consecutive matches will be suspended for their next match unless their next match is MLS Cup.

- If a player’s club does not advance to the next round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after the player receives a second yellow card in consecutive matches, the suspension will not carry over into the next MLS regular season.

- A player who is issued two yellow cards in the same match is suspended for his next match for which he eligible including an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs round match, MLS Cup and/or his next MLS Regular Season match.

- If a coach or staff member receives a total of two yellow cards during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, that individual will be suspended for the next match unless the next match is MLS Cup.

Therefore the poorly officiated match between Sporting KC and the San Jose Earthquakes could have lasting effects for whatever team advances to play the Sounders. And wouldn’t you know it, Sporting KC have a lot more players on the verge of suspension.

Players Suspended with Another Yellow on Thursday

  • Johnny Russell (SKC)
  • Roger Espinoza (SKC)
  • Winston Reid (SKC)
  • Amadou Dia (SKC)
  • Michael Boxall (MIN)

As for the Sounders, none of their players will be suspended. The only player risking suspension going into the match against Dallas was their superstar midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro. He managed to stay card free (he only picked up one foul).

Thoughts on the Rules

The rules are the rules but due to the inconsistent nature of the Professional Referees Organization and their referees, it’s a real shame it’s a rule. I particularly remember disagreeing with the yellow given to Reid but not having issues with the other three given out against San Jose. All it takes is a soft yellow for any of these five players, if their team is to advance, and suddenly the game is not quite as good.

The same is true of Nico Lodeiro had he gotten a card. It’s not hard to go back and rewatch the game and see a soft card having gone against Lodeiro (though thankfully it didn’t). The game will be better with him in it. He’s one of the best players in the league. The same is true of a player like Johnny Russell or Winston Reid. Not to mention Roger Espinoza is still vitally important to KC (though I guess it’d force some squad rotation). It’d be a shame to see any of them suspended and if KC were to advance they’d miss a chance to help Kansas City get to MLS Cup for the first time since 2013.

I just don’t see how it makes anything better.

As for which referee is handling the game between KC and Minnesota, PRO hasn’t released it with the game in less than 24 hours. The referees for Seattle/Dallas were published the day of, I’d expect the same here. Ismail Elfath hasn’t gotten a second game in the playoffs yet and he’s the 2020 Referee of the Year, that seems like a reasonable guess. Here are the full referee stats for the playoffs. He gave out three yellows in his only other game. He averaged nearly four yellow cards a game in the regular season.

In the end, advancing is the most important thing. Beat Minnesota and then worry about the rest later.

What are your thoughts on the yellow card rules in the playoffs? Join the conversation in the comments below.