BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop questioned the performance of referee Chris Penso after the Chicago Fire fell to their fourth defeat of the season with a 3-2 reverse against the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Park on Saturday, though the team was also left to wonder what's to come following the upcoming break in MLS play.
Penso brandished two red cards and six yellows as the Western Conference leaders escaped with a victory to extend their lead to seven points with two goals from Obafemi Martins and one from Lamar Neagle.
The Fire’s Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was the first player to see red when he went in two-footed on Sounders dangerman Martins in the 37th minute.
Martins then followed Hurtado in for an early shower when he apparently hit out at Benji Joya after the Fire’s own two-goal hero Harry Shipp pulled one back for the hosts just five minutes later.
Yallop claimed he didn’t see the melee that led to Martins’ dismissal, but Penso was in no doubt that there had been contact between the Sounders’ two-goal hero and Joya. “Violent conduct. Martins was sent off after striking an opponent in the head,” was Penso’s brief post-match statement.
Yallop did, however, see the challenge that led to Hurtado’s ejection, and insisted that his center back had little choice in going in like he did on the elusive Nigerian.
“Any time you go in with two feet it alarms referees for some reason,” Yallop told reporters in his post-match press conference. “I think that Jhon had no other opportunity to block the ball other than to go with his feet showing. He didn’t catch the player. Give a penalty kick but don’t give a sending off. Or give a sending off and no penalty kick, whatever you want to d,o but I just think the double thing was just a needless decision.”
“It wasn’t malicious, it was low, it looked like he’s just trying to get his feet sorted out,” he added. “But the rules are what they are, so I can’t really argue with it, but I struggle a little bit with the officiating. I thought it was a little one way, but that’s my opinion.”
Captain Jeff Larentowicz, who cut a hurt, angry figure in the locker room after his side’s latest disappointment, also believed his teammate was unlucky to see red. But he also expressed his disappointment with the latest setback for the Fire ahead of the break in league play.
"Everyone has to go home this week and figure out if they’re content with where we are, think about if they’re content coming in after games saying, ‘Oh well, we did alright – we didn’t score or we didn’t finish that chance,’ or they can make a difference, they can make a change," Larentowicz said.
"We’re at the bottom of the conference – we have to make a move and we have to stop being content with half chances and one goal losses at home."
For his part, Shipp attributed the Fire's struggles on the night to an inability to stay locked in on the task at hand.
"I think we have to keep our focus. There was a lot of extracurricular stuff going on after every tackle, there were people complaining, but I think you just have to keep your head and focus," he said.
Despite his feelings about the officiating, Yallop acknowledged the good and the bad of his team's performance on the night.
"What I liked about the team tonight: we fought, and we stuck up for each other. That's the positive out of it. The negative: we didn't get a result at home, obviously. Frustration is probably the word I would say right now."