OBETZ, Ohio — It’s what Julius James didn’t do in Saturday’s match at Real Salt Lake that has Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha praising his defender.
James and RSL forward Fábian Espíndola jousted for 90 minutes during the Crew’s 2-0 victory in Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday. However, Columbus also claim that Espíndola tried to escalate the situation immediately after the game by charging at James.
Cameras showed Warzycha sprinting off the bench as James went to talk to the officials and then leading his player off the field while others kept Espíndola at bay.
“I saw him behind Julius, and so I said I would have to take [James] because he would have to defend himself,” Warzycha said. “He would have to. He wouldn’t have a choice. I took things in my hands and pushed him to the locker room.”
James was a yellow card away from a caution-points suspension but survived without one and will be available for Friday’s match at Colorado.
“I’m so proud because in the past there would have been a reaction by Julius, but I think he proved that he really is a professional and he is the player he always wanted to be,” Warzycha said. “This proved that he is taking his game to the next level.”
James said his encounters with Espíndola in the game went beyond reason.
“We exchanged some words,” he said. “I never became physical and I never hit him. He hit me three or four times. He punched me in the stomach. I got elbows in the chest. He punched me in the ribs and back.”
He was just as annoyed by the officiating.
“Every single time I called the referee, there was no reaction from him,” James said. “The linesman was seeing everything. He didn’t do anything, which is absolutely ridiculous.
“If I were to keel over and pretend I were injured then he [have reacted], but the fact someone is punching me in the stomach should be enough for the linesman and the referee to react, but there weren't any consequences,” he added.
James, 27, was signed by the Crew in February after being released by D.C. United. There, and at his previous stops with Toronto FC and Houston, he earned the reputation as antagonistic player.
Warzycha said he thinks James showed maturity against Real Salt Lake.
“I remember him playing for different teams and sometimes he was too aggressive and taking things personally,” he said. “That’s why he was getting yellow cards or red cards. This game he showed he was a real professional. He took a step forward with his game.”
In fairness to James, he has no red cards in 72 career games. He’s earned five cautions in 20 matches this season, which is slightly above his MLS average of being booked in 22 percent of his games (16 yellows).
The Trinidad and Tobago defender has committed 41 fouls but has melded so well with center back partner Chad Marshall that the Crew last month traded last year’s starter Andy Iro to Toronto.
“He’s pretty solid in the middle with Chad,” Warzycha said of James. “It’s a good partnership.”