Was it a red card or not?
That was the biggest talking point from Saturday’s Heineken Rivalry Week matchup between Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United FC, one that ended in a 0-0 draw in the latest “Nicest Rivalry in Sports” edition.
The play, of course, was Remi Walter being sent off in the 21st minute for fouling Emanuel Reynoso. The on-field call was confirmed via Video Review, leaving Sporting handicapped for 70-plus minutes at Allianz Field.
Sporting coach Peter Vermes said his team, on the road, dominated possession up to that point. And then the game changed.
“[Walter] goes to poke it, pulls his leg back, [Reynoso] obviously makes a meal of it. Referee gives him a red. I find it incredibly difficult to just accept that,” Vermes said. “Even when they were playing in the game, every time we got the ball, they would foul us. Tactical move, which I understand, teams invoke that.
“But it's the referee’s job to be the one that deals with that – 17 fouls to 11, I’m amazed. [Cameron Duke] was fouled three times within that first 20 minutes of the game, and he didn’t even get a call. It blows me away."
Not surprisingly, Minnesota coach Adrian Heath had a different take.
“I'll have to see it again. Peter has his opinion, I'll have mine,” Heath said. “At the end of the day, the referee had two goes at it. He had a look, red card. Went and had another look in slow motion, red card. So I don't know, we'll see.”
That play was one piece of a bigger worry on Vermes’ end, with the longest-tenured coach in MLS noting Alan Pulido left the match late “as a consequence” of an early harsh tackle by Bakaye Dibassy. The Mexico international was dragged down, though only a yellow card was produced.
Vermes said Sporting aren’t rewarded for respecting the game, voicing clear frustration in his postgame press conference about the decisions.
“The fact that guys on my team don’t dive, the fact that guys on my team try to fight through tackles and you can’t see that, you can’t realize that when you’re doing the game, that a guy's trying to stay up because he's not trying to dive, because he respects the game, because he respects the way he's playing, he actually has respect for the referee, he's not trying to dupe them,” Vermes said. “He’s not trying to dive to get the call. I call that respect.”
Despite being shorthanded, Sporting had a golden opportunity in the second half to go ahead when substitute Daniel Salloi set up Khiry Shelton with a goalmouth look. And they’re still second in the Western Conference standings, pressing Seattle for the overall lead.
All told, Vermes lauded his team for battling week in and week out, regardless of which obstacles arrive.
“Our guys are up for the challenge because they come and they bring it,” Vermes said. “And no matter what the circumstances are, they go to fight. And I have incredible respect for the group of guys in that locker room.”