New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke does not agree with MLS’ decision to tack on an extra game to Juninho’s suspension, and he also seems to think that Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen deserves an Oscar.
A day after the MLS Disciplinary Committee fined and suspended Juninho a second game for kicking a dead ball at Nielsen late in the Red Bulls’ 1-0 loss to Sporting KC last Wednesday, Petke expressed his displeasure with Nielsen’s embellishment of the situation. The Red Bulls coach was not overly brash with his words, but the message was understood all the same.
“Mr. Nielsen obviously doesn’t keep it a secret that he can milk the clock with the best of them and I take my hat off to him for that, to be honest with you,” Petke told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday. “He’s a seasoned vet and he knows how to work the system a little bit. The funny thing to me is that Juninho is 15 yards away and toe-pokes the ball at a goalkeeper, a professional goalkeeper, and he hits him in the face or whatever and he goes down like a rock.
“Again, that’s his gamesmanship in a way. Do I think [Juninho] should’ve gotten two [games]? No, I personally thought one would be enough. If he had blasted it as hard as he could and hit him, then I’d understand that. But to essentially toe-poke the ball back to get the game going because he’s been wasting time, and for him to go down like that, he fooled everybody. So I guess that’s where the two games come from.”
Whether Juninho, who was immediately ejected and admittedly frustrated, deserved a two-game suspension for kicking the ball at Nielsen in stoppage time is up for debate. But the 38-year-old Brazilian midfielder should consider himself somewhat lucky to not receive a bigger suspension for two attempted elbows that were not called against Sporting KC.
Forced to be a spectator in the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win over the New England Revolution this past Saturday, Juninho will again have to watch from the sidelines when the club visits Toronto FC on Saturday. He will be eligible to return for New York’s road game against the Columbus Crew on May 4.