I know many of you don’t agree, but Roger Espinoza deserved the red card against LAFC on Friday night at Banc of California Stadium in an embarrassing 4-0 loss. What was initially only given as a foul (despite what the tweet with the video below says), was changed to a red card after Drew Fischer was informed by the VAR to take a second look.
It’s okay if you don’t agree, Sporting Kansas City head coach and sporting director, Peter Vermes doesn’t either. In his post-game press conference he said, “it’s profiling. Simple as can be. Because it’s Roger Espinoza he gets a red card.” Roger is the all-time leader in MLS in red cards with 12. It should be noted, “Red Card Roger” went all of 2020 without a red card and I honestly don’t think he meant for it to happen tonight. But intent doesn’t matter.
Before we go any further, let’s look at the red card.
I’ll reiterate, I don’t think it’s intentional. But he’s pulled Arango by the jersey, misses the ball and steps very hard on his ankle/heel. It’s not his foot. I’ll also admit, the super slow-motion makes it look worse, but it’s definitely dangerous.
Now let’s look at the laws of the game for “Serious foul play” courtesy of IFAB.
“A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.” (emphasis mine)
There is nothing in here about intent. It was pretty clearly an accident as the ball was close to where Espinoza was stepping before Arango touches it away. But that type of tackle could severely injury someone. And there is no doubt in my mind that it endangered the safety of his opponent.
⚽ HOW FOOTBALL HAS CHANGED— The IFAB (@TheIFAB) January 30, 2020
Which offences are sanctioned as SERIOUS FOUL PLAY? (red card )
1998: Tackles from behind which endanger the safety of an opponent
2005: Also tackles from the front or the side
2016: Also tackles/challenges that use excessive force or brutality pic.twitter.com/LVkIfWPFDs
Vermes, again, disagrees.
“If you watch and you know the game, you understand that it’s accidental contact,” starts Vermes. “He is stepping his foot and he actually goes underneath the other foot and when his foot comes down, it steps on the back of his leg. He doesn’t mean to do it. He’s not even looking. He’s getting his feet under him. He just ran 60 yards to return into the play and was slowing down. It’s not a red card.”
Vermes goes on to voice his displeasure with the consistency of the referees. He brings up Khiry Shelton going to the hospital on a play that got no card and Alan Pulido getting clotheslined and that play only earning a yellow. And I don’t disagree when looking through a long lens. Those calls aren’t consistent with this call. But those were different referees. I thought Drew Fischer called a good game last night for the most part. It’s not his fault that his counterparts in PRO aren’t applying the laws of the game correctly. That is on the Professional Referee Organization and MLS to address outside of this game.
Personally, all I ask for from refs is consistency. Fischer gave it tonight. Others haven’t been as good. All this isn’t to say that Fischer had a perfect game. He gave a foul on Shelton just after the red that leads to the second goal. It was an incorrect call as Shelton is holding his ground, wins the header and Latif Blessing (a known flopper, even when he was in Kansas City) comes flying in out of control. If anything, Latif fouled Khiry, but he doesn’t go down easy like many others in the league.
Below is Peter’s nearly four minute response to the first question in the press conference. His complaints about those others games and the delaying of restarts is spot-on, but I disagree on his assessment that it’s some sort of profiling against Roger.
Back to Roger
Many have described the red card offense as something that ‘happens every game.’ I would disagree that it’s every game. VAR has done a good job, on the whole, of finding these plays and punishing them. Do some of these calls get missed? Absolutely. There is just no way around it. Humans make errors and there are humans refereeing these games and manning the booth for the video reviews.
Here is a video loaded with red cards, some much more egregious than others. However, several are of the accidently stepping on ankles/heels variety. It’s a red card, sorry.
The irony of the whole thing is Roger Espinoza made a great recovery run, wins the ball but then crashes into his teammate Ilie Sanchez and they give the ball back which leads to this play. It’s unfortunate. It’s unlucky. But it’s a red card.
The thing is, I really love Roger Espinoza. He’s one of my favorite players and this team will miss him when he’s gone. But I have to put that aside and be as impartial as I can be and admit it’s red. I ran an unscientific poll on Twitter after the game and, since I’m primarily followed by Sporting KC fans, at the time of my publishing of this story (the poll is still open) it was less than 35 percent that agreed it’s a red. I’m guilty of being a homer at times, so I get it.
In the end, Espinoza will miss the next game against the Chicago Fire. I personally hope that Peter Vermes doesn’t challenge it, as he will lose. The club has already used one of it’s two challenges in a failed attempt to overturn the Remi Walter red card against Minnesota United. Save this one. Roger can probably use a game off anyways.
All I hope is that it’s just one game. When Espinoza was leaving the pitch he kicked a ball on the sideline (I believe into the tunnel but it’s hard to tell) and he pushes a security guard. I get he’s frustrated, but it’s not a good look. Some are arguing the official starts it, but I’d say it’s probably a reaction to Roger blasting that ball.