VANCOUVER, B.C. - The Vancouver Whitecaps lost a chance at three points with a lackluster effort in Seattle on Saturday, which led to the team having a frank and lengthy postgame meeting in the locker room and head coach Carl Robinson proclaiming that his team were "too soft."
That's soft in terms of mentality and their toughness to play against. When it comes to their actions and aggression on the pitch, softness is far from the issue.
While the Whitecaps were losing points and valuable ground in the Western Conference playoff race, veteran midfielder Efrain Juarez was losing his head, earning a straight red card in the second half as his frustrations boiled over and he raced up to referee Chris Penso after being called for a foul, subsequently chest bumping the official.
A contrite Juarez apologized for the unacceptable behavior at Whitecaps training on Monday.
"Of course it's not a good behavior from myself," Juarez told reporters. "I'm a guy with a lot of experience. Sometimes my passion, I over react. But this is the way sometimes I feel I live. Of course it's no excuse but the only thing is for me to come and apologize. That sort of thing is never going to happen [again] from myself or from someone at this club."
The trouble is that indiscipline seems to run deep at the Whitecaps this year. Juarez's dismissal was the seventh for the team in 21 MLS matches; it was also Juarez's second of the season. The team total is the most for any team in MLS this season.
Juarez admits he was frustrated at being whistled for a foul which he felt was a clean tackle. Penso produced a yellow card, which brought Juarez's reaction and the subsequent red card. Though Juarez says his intention wasn't to make contact with the official, he maintains he couldn't stop in time.
Robinson brought Juarez into the team for his veteran leadership, and while he has brought that to the locker room, Juarez admits that there is a side of his game that isn't what he wants it to be.
"Sometimes the passion, when things don't go the best way, it's frustrating," he admitted. "It's not the way that you can get out of this frustration. It's not how to act, to be honest. Talking for myself, it's not the best behavior I know. It's not good behavior.
"People that really know me, know how I live, know my passion, how I understand this game. I grew up just playing this game. It's more than a job. When things don't go the best way, sometimes that frustration grows and goes to me head and I just go blind and don't think. Of course it's no excuse, but at that moment, during 90 pulsating minutes, sometimes you don't think."
But whatever is behind the continued lack of discipline from Juarez and others on the team, it appears that Robinson has reached the end of his tether with it all.
"I’m sick of it," Robinson said of the continued ill discipline after Saturday's match. "I think they’re letting themselves down, they’re letting me down, they’re letting the club down. I don’t condone it. I’ll protect them as much as I can, but I don’t know what exactly happened there. [Juarez] comes from Mexican football, so it’s a little bit different. The referees are a little bit different and things like that, but we don’t condone that.”
Juarez will now have time to think about his actions with at least a one-game suspension pending. The Whitecaps need him to change and that is something he clearly wants to do himself.
"It's embarrassing sometimes for me because I've been growing from where I came," Juarez said. "Just growing with a ball and trying to win in every moment and every single tackle, ball, whatever, playing in the street. It's part of me. It's part of myself I need to control."