SANDY, Utah – The afterglow of Real Salt Lake’s last-gasp 2-2 draw with Philadelphia on Wednesday was all about how the Claret-and-Cobalt battled back with a dramatic turn of events to rescue a point deep into stoppage time.
And head coach Jason Kreis was duly pleased with how his team pulled together despite being down a man for more than half an hour and kept "pushing and pushing," as he said in his postgame press conference. But there was one thing that he refused to let go.
"Am I going to go here or not?” he asked rhetorically, pondering the almost certain repercussions of his words. “I think I'm going to go here. I think it needs to be said.
“That referee was not ready to referee that game, in my opinion. I think he was in the wrong pool. That game – a sellout crowd, July Fourth crowd in front of our fans and that atmosphere we provide here – was too much for what I think is a very inexperienced referee that doesn't have a real good feel for the game.”
The moment in question was in the 59th minute when defender Lovel Palmer was shown a straight red card from referee Ismail Elfath for his sliding challenge on Philadelphia’s Michael Farfan.
The tackle was certainly a punishable offense. But whether it was worth a straight red card was up for debate.
Elfath explained it thusly through a pool reporter: "From our vantage point, the tackle was considered serious foul play that endangered the safety of the opponent by way of contact of the cleats, exposed cleats, with the shin area of the opponent that ended up being injured.”
Palmer, who admitted to having a bit of a reputation as a "hard player," and now has five career red cards in 89 games, wholeheartedly disagreed with the decision.
"I made a very good challenge," the Jamaican told MLSsoccer.com after the game. "The referee, maybe based on where he was, he thought it was a foul against me that warranted a red card, but I know that was a fair challenge.
“Maybe when he goes home tonight and takes a look at the tape, he will realize maybe he made the wrong call. … He's human, it was real time; I'm not going to bash him. It's a part of the game. He made a call that he thought was a red-card challenge."
Fortunately for RSL, they also received a call in their favor in the waning minutes as Elfath awarded a penalty kick on Ray Gaddis' hand ball in the box. Palmer said he felt relieved that his teammates picked up the slack for him and the team's run of 10 games unbeaten across all competitions continued.
"Our guys, we fought for 90 minutes," he said. "Every player, they played for two guys after I got the red card, and we got a point and our unbeaten streak is extended."