"There was no intention": Kevin Cabral red card hinders LA Galaxy in Minnesota loss; MLS and PRO explain the decision

UPDATE (June 30, 7:30 pm ET) On Thursday evening, the MLS Competition Department and Professional Referee Organization (PRO) aligned in supporting referee Ted Unkel's decision to send off LA Galaxy winger Kevin Cabral, given for violent conduct after making contact with Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair in their match on Wednesday night.

The MLS Competition department and PRO explained that MLS players were informed of specific information regarding challenges on goalkeepers and how those actions would result in the issuing of a red card or action from the MLS Disciplinary Committee after the fact. The information was provided this year during meetings with every team’s players and technical staff to review Laws of the Game, updated MLS rules, and player discipline. They information is detailed as follows:

Challenges on Goalkeepers

The MLS Disciplinary Committee will utilize, but will not be limited to, the following criteria when determining whether the incident meets the standard for disciplinary action:

  • The attacker’s ability to play the ball / mistimed challenge; and/or
  • Whether there is contact by the defender(s) that impacts the attacker’s ability to avoid the goalkeeper; and/or
  • Demonstration by the attacker to show every effort was made to avoid contact with the goalkeeper; and/or
  • The potential to cause injury

ORIGINAL (June 30, 7:24 am ET) Was Kevin Cabral’s 25th-minute red card deserved or not?

LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney made his opinion crystal clear after his team dropped a 3-2 result to Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night at Dignity Health Sports Park, reduced to 10 men with nearly three-quarters of the match remaining.

They were losing 1-0 at the time after Emanuel Reynoso’s long-distance curler found the net, and then head referee Ted Unkel gave LA’s French winger his marching orders after a stray boot caught Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair on the head, having jumped to evade a 50-50 challenge that followed a rebounded shot.

In Vanney’s view, some nuance is needed on a decision he bluntly dubbed “diabolical.”

“I saw video from all angles. He’s certainly trying to get out of the way,” Vanney said of the Young Designated Player. “There was no intention, and red cards change games. Now you’re at 10 [men]. I felt like we didn’t manage the situation great, maybe a little shock. I was so shocked that he was walking off the field. I didn’t even think he’s going to get a yellow card because it wasn’t even that to me. So I don’t know.”

Asked about the refereeing decision postgame by a pool reporter, a statement said the Video Review crew backed the on-field call. But confusion remained when St. Clair’s opposite number, Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, assessed the game-changing moment himself.

“I have seen it back as well on the replays and Kevin is clearly trying to jump out the challenge,” Bond said. “We all know what Kevin is like as a player, and he is not the type to leave anything in there. The contact is so minimal. Personally, whenever that happens to me, I expect some sort of contact somewhere and usually when that happens, I probably don’t react even that much. You just carry on in the game.”

Naturally, a different perspective arose from Minnesota’s locker room as they snapped a four-game losing streak across all competitions behind Reynoso’s brace and Franco Fragapane’s sliding volley.

“He made contact with Dayne,” said Loons head coach Adrian Heath. “I don’t know about how forceful it was, but he did make contact. Really then the referee doesn’t have much … he has no other way, he has to send him off. He hit him in the head.”

The match actually finished 10-v-9 in the visitors’ favor after both LA winger Douglas Costa and Minnesota midfielder Joseph Rosales were sent off in the 95th minute for a late scrap. Tensions were high all throughout, and the Loons could be down another player after midfielder Kervin Arriaga exited in the 5th minute with an ankle injury that Heath called “not as bad as we first feared” despite being “very, very swollen.”

Amid the sending-offs, LA scored twice in the second half through midfielder Mark Delgado (60th-minute penalty kick) and striker Dejan Joveljic (93rd-minute shot) to nearly snatch a dramatic late draw. But the hosts weathered one too many mistakes in this Western Conference showdown, and they endured a fourth home loss in the 2022 campaign.

“Not always will we perform perfectly,” Vanney said. “Some guys will make mistakes, but the level of intensity and the work and concentration on the details that we talk about during the week have to be present because we can be a very, very good team when we do that and we can be a very vulnerable team when we don’t, and that’s been too often.”

From the other perspective, St. Clair believes the win shows what MNUFC are capable of.

​​“We know we’re a good team and the results haven’t gone our way,” said the Canadian international. “Then, we just need to dig a little bit deeper because we’ve been in positions to win these games and we’ve let some slip away. So just having a stronger mentality is something that we talked about.”