CHESTER, Pa. –
sat in his locker room hunched over, silent and with his eyes fixed on the ground. The disappointment he carried was obvious to anyone nearby and it was also understandable.
Sam had been ejected approximately an hour earlier, reducing the New York Red Bulls to 10 men and essentially killing off any chance they had of a comeback in the first half of what was ultimately a 3-0 loss to rivals the Philadelphia Union. Referee Baldomero Toledo issued the straight red to Sam in the 28th minute for a studs-up tackle on a 50-50 challenge on
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After the match, Sam refrained from commenting at length on the play, stating he wanted to review the replay before doing so. But what he did say was that he was just attempting to make a play on the ball and had no intention of harming Cruz, who came out of the match shortly after.
“He had a bad touch and then the ball was in between us, which happens in football all the time,” Sam told reporters. “Two guys running head to head and it’s a difficult one because if you don’t go in strong enough you get hurt yourself. We saw each other and he went to ground and I went in strong at the ball.”
Sam added that when he saw the red card come out of Toledo’s back pocket, he felt instant disappointment. Not only had he blown an opportunity to make a case for more playing time, but, more importantly, he hurt the Red Bulls’ chances of finding an equalizer after Conor Casey had scored in the 7th minute.
“When I saw red, already being 1-0 down, I felt I’ve let down my teammates,” Sam said. “Obviously, it was already a tough game with 11 [players] so that was immediately what I thought.”
OPTA CHALKBOARD: Sam's day cut short by red card
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke called Toledo’s decision a “coin flip” and did not offer an opinion on the play given that he had also not had an opportunity to review it. Petke, however, admitted that any thought of a comeback evaporated with Sam’s ejection.
“The red card obviously killed us,” Petke said. “Ironically, I thought we played some of our best soccer, moving wise, getting out of the back and into the final third, when we had 10 men at some points in the second half, which is hilarious to me.
“But the red card killed us.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.