FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The members of the New England management structure and technical staff did not set out to test the new red-card appeals procedures put in place by MLS during the offseason.
In this particular case, however, they felt the situation – and, more to the point, the red card handed out to Fernando Cárdenas for a clash with Jámison Olave in last Saturday night's 2-1 defeat at Real Salt Lake – warranted unprecedented action.
“We felt, out of principle, that we really should fight this one,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told MLSsoccer.com after his club lodged the first appeal under the new guidelines and won the right to have Cárdenas' automatic fine and one-match ban rescinded. “And we did.”
Several members of the front office and the technical staff banded together to gather the necessary information within the 24-hour window allotted for appeals at the end of every match. Once they accumulated all of the necessary data, they decided to press forward with their appeal and send photographic and video data to the league for review.
At that point, the three members of an independent review panel designed to handle such extraordinary appeals reviewed the incident from the match.
The panel – a group comprising single representatives from the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and US Soccer – weighed two questions as they assessed the evidence provided to them: 1) Did the referee correctly identify the offense in accordance with the Laws of the Game and 2) Is the disciplinary sanction applied appropriate for the offense?
The panel reached a unanimous decision that the referee did not satisfy either of those criteria and made an obvious error with his judgment in this particular incident. That conclusion prompted the panel to lift the automatic one-match suspension and fine handed to Cárdenas for the dismissal. Cárdenas is now eligible to feature in New England's Saturday home match with Vancouver if selected.
Revolution general manager Michael Burns said the club knew the decision to appeal the decision carried some risks (if an appeal is deemed frivolous by the panel, the Revs would lose a $25,000 bond posted prior to the season and the right to appeal any other decision during this season and next season), but he said he is pleased that the decision ultimately favored the club.
“We knew going into it that there was no guarantee that we would win the appeal,” Burns said. “We were the first team to do it, so there hasn't been any precedent set. We weren't sure, but you're never sure. We felt that we had a pretty good case to make in this regard. We're certainly glad the panel agreed with us.”