HARRISON, NJ – Wednesday evening’s encounter between the New York Red Bulls and DC United was a gritty affair that saw both teams have chances to secure a result - the Red Bulls threatened throughout the match but were frustrated by United keeper Bill Hamid, who turned in a world-class performance.
But it was a controversial red card by referee Mark Geiger that stole the show at Red Bull Arena, leaving United down a man for nearly two thirds of the match and sending DC head coach Ben Olsen into a tizzy.
In the 32nd minute, New York midfielder Dax McCarty and United forward Fabian Espindola both strode towards a loose ball. Espindola raised his leg in an attempt to control the ball, and made contact with McCarty, who was running at full speed. Geiger ruled that Espindola’s actions constituted dangerous play, and he was shown off without hesitation.
Olsen was a bit more reserved with his criticism after the match than he was during it - ESPN cameras caught the fiery head coach berating the officiating crew multiple times throughout the encounter - but he still had plenty to say.
"I don’t typically react that way, I can’t stand being that guy. I’m just so disappointed that that game shook out like that because these guys deserved better," Olsen told the media assembled outside of the visitor’s locker room. "To me, it’s not a red card, it’s a soccer play that happens all the time. Fabian [Espindola] plays with his heart and goes in for challenges.
“It just ruins the game. It’s so disappointing. It was a gutsy performance from this team. They’re a bunch of grinders and they know how to [get a result]. I’m proud of them tonight - I’m disappointed because they couldn’t get something out of what was a hell of an effort because of the call."
Espindola was equally unimpressed with Geiger’s call, but was a bit shorter on words than his head coach.
"It wasn’t a red,” Espindola told MLSsoccer.com. "It changed the game. I didn’t even have time to react. I didn’t even really touch him - I kicked the ball and it hit his chest. My studs were facing the other way. There was no intention to hurt him.”
After the match, there was certainly talk of appealing Espindola’s suspension, and the Argentine himself hoped his club would go that route. Espindola - who earlier this year served a 2-match ban for an after-the-whistle kick delivered to Felipe in a match against the Montreal Impact - hoped the league would see things in his favor this time around.
"The league punishes me when I do something, they should do something [to fix this] now.”
This wasn’t United’s first run-in with a Geiger-related controversy. Olsen felt hard done during a match against the Philadelphia Union in 2012 - after which he famously referred to the officiating as “the Geiger show” and suggested that the ref - who this summer became the first American to officiate a World Cup elimination match - sometimes likes to put his stamp on games.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this story included a misquote of United coach Ben Olsen's postgame remarks.