KANSAS CITY - Throughout the first two-thirds of the 2005 MLS season, Kansas City Wizards midfielder Diego Gutierrez was a regular fixture in the team's lineup. Then a series of misfortunes befell the Wizards captain, and he couldn't regain his starting place.
So it was a pleased Gutierrez who found himself back on the field last Friday for the second half of his team's match against the Columbus Crew at Arrowhead Stadium. Yet after one action - and one reaction - Gutierrez now finds himself back out of action this weekend.
Gutierrez received two yellow cards in quick succession, in the 87th and 88th minutes of the eventual 1-0 loss to the Crew, which led to his being sent off and automatically suspended for Saturday's match against the MetroStars at the Meadowlands. The second yellow card also wiped out any caution points from the first, meaning that the next yellow card Gutierrez receives will put him over that limit as well, meaning another one-match suspension.
"It's a situation where it was a tight game. I'm not sure we got a fair shake on a lot of the calls - it almost felt like we were playing away," said the Colombia native, in his ninth season in MLS. "But that's the way the game goes."
The first card was for an ill-timed tackle on the Crew's Danny Szetela.
"I haven't had the opportunity to play too much lately and the consequences of inactivity meant the timing of tackles was a bit off," he said.
The second came after a prolonged conversation with referee Ben Jones. Gutierrez reacted bemusedly as he saw the card and again approached Jones as three teammates came to his aid, somewhat animated themselves.
"I understand that the referee is not too experienced at our level (it was his sixth game in the middle in MLS). And I maybe said something that rubbed him the wrong way, but it's not something that every other guy doesn't say - it's not something that you never hear on the soccer field," said the 32-year-old. "As a matter of fact, it's quite common, for better or for worse."
Gutierrez played the entirety of 14 of Kansas City's first 20 league matches. But he then suffered a freak incident over the All-Star break, involving significant carbon-monoxide exposure while on a boat with his family in Chicago. That meant he missed nearly a whole week of training, a U.S. Open Cup match and the Wizards 2-1 win Aug. 6 in New England. Before last weekend's game, he had played just 44 minutes since the start of August.
Gutierrez's words will cost his team another man when they are already short for this Saturday's meeting with the MetroStars, the first of a home-and-home series between the teams. Defender Jimmy Conrad, center midfielder Kerry Zavagnin and forwards Josh Wolff and Scott Sealy will be on World Cup qualification duty Saturday and Wednesday.
Gutierrez clearly regrets the incident but still holds reservations about Jones's decision.
"Obviously the league is trying to get rid of dissent, but I still believe it was a little harsh," he said.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.