KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sigi Schmid stood in a hallway in bowels of Livestrong Sporting Park gamely explaining why his side came up short in their quest for four straight US Open Cup titles.
He commended Sporting KC for their effort, pointed to fatigue as a deciding factor for his overworked side and lamented the little bit of quality that was missing on a disappointing night in Kansas City.
Then he moved onto referee Ricardo Salazar.
“It’s difficult, you’re playing against a team at home so the crowd helps them,” Schmid said. “When you’re playing against the referee as well, and he makes some absolutely, I thought, ridiculous calls, it’s very tough to win.”
In particular, Schmid wasn’t happy with the hand ball called against defender Zach Scott in the 82nd minute, setting up Kei Kamara’s penalty kick that gave Sporting a 1-0 lead and what appeared to be pole position in the race to lift the Cup at the end of the night.
With time running out for either team to find a winner, Teal Bunbury latched onto a long ball into the left channel, turned back toward the corner of the box and curled his foot around a cross that struck Scott, resulting in immediate hand ball appeals from Sporting and Salazar pointing to the spot.
And while the capacity crowd of 18,863 was nearly unanimous in its approval, Schmid wasn’t so sure.
“The hand ball that he called, I don’t know how he can see it,” he said. “He’s not at a good angle to see it if it is a handball. Nobody I’ve talked to has seen a replay that shows it being a definite hand ball or not. One of our players warming up there and our assistant coach said it hit him in the chest, so you don’t know.”
Scott, who scored the game-tying goal just two minutes later, stayed out of the fray, preferring to let his coach do the talking on a night in which the breaks simply didn’t go Seattle’s way in regulation or the penalty shootout.
“I have a ton of respect for the refs in our league, for Ricardo in particular,” he said. “He’s a great ref. I think you guys saw the game. I think you guys saw the replays. I’m not going to comment any further on that. Sigi can comment on the refs all he wants. I’ll be the first guy to put my hand up if I make a mistake. I hope the refs do the same.”