VANCOUVER, B.C. — Red cards have been a big talking point for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season, what with Eric Hassli’s penchant for drawing the ref’s eye. But Wednesday night, it was a different man sent to the dressing room.
The big moment happened in the 78th minute, as winger Shea Salinas went in late on Columbus Crew left back Josh Gardner.
Referee Chris Penso immediately reached for his back pocket, meaning the ‘Caps had to play just over 10 minutes a man down. They eventually lost 1-0.
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“I had a head full of steam and couldn’t really stop — it was too late,” Salinas told MLSsoccer.com. “It was a reckless challenge. It changed the game. I felt I cost the team some points. I think we would have caught a goal there late, so I feel bad.”
Columbus took advantage of the ‘Caps playing a man down as striker Jeff Cunningham headed home from close range to give his team the late 1-0 victory. In the process, he equaled Jamie Moreno’s MLS record of 133 career regular-season goals.
“They put on Cunningham, who is a known goal-scorer,” Salinas said. “He just tied the league record for most goals, so had I not got that red card, he probably wouldn’t be on the field. So I definitely feel bad for that.”
Salinas appeared shocked by Penso’s initial decision. After seeing the replay, however, he felt it was the right call to make.
“At first I didn’t [think it should have been a red card], but once I saw the replay I agreed,” Salinas said. “I did try to pull out, but in the replay, you can’t really tell that, so I think the ref made the right call.”
After dismissing Salinas, Penso made a stamping motion, claiming the Whitecaps winger went into the challenge with his studs up. Salinas described the moment of impact.
“I had [my studs] turned sideways,” Salinas said. “They weren’t raised, but my leg was up high, and he just came under my leg and kicked the bottom of my foot. He didn’t get any studs, he caught the middle of my foot, so he shouldn’t be too injured.”
Another key talking point in this match was the missed penalty by midfielder Terry Dunfield in the 72nd minute.
“The stage was set for me there to go on and score, and sometimes in football, there’s no in between,” Dunfield said. “You have the highs and the lows. It’s going to be a tough night for me personally. I wanted the ball and some days they go in and I’m the hero, and other times they don’t.”
Coach Tom Soehn explained that Hassli is the designated penalty-taker when available, but that it’s up to the veteran players to take charge on nights like Wednesday.
“You credit him for stepping up, but you rely on your senior guys to put situations like that away,” Soehn said. “That’s why they’re your senior guys. He obviously didn’t do that. We rely on senior guys to put a stamp on the game and it wasn’t Terry’s night tonight.”