Sporting KC livid after salvaging home draw following contentious penalty

KANSAS CITY, Kan.—With a playoff place and ever-more-crucial points in the balance, Sporting Kansas City felt their Saturday match with the LA Galaxy hinged on a contentious penalty kick call issued by referee Jair Marrufo in the 23rd minute.

Galaxy forward Ola Kamara had been played into the box, and went down as he took a heavy touch. Marrufo immediately called a penalty kick and after a check was conducted, as per Video Review guidelines, the referee upheld his original decision. Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepped up and slotted home the penalty kick. Johnny Russell scored a late equalizer to salvage a home result with a 1-1 draw, but that didn't salve the early irritation.

“Terrible decision – 100% terrible decision,” said Sporting KC Manager & Technical Director Peter Vermes. “When you have a live game at the speed of which the game is being played, you can absolutely change the score in making mistakes.”

Per the referee’s pool report, Marrufo had adjudged SKC defender Matt Besler to have tripped Kamara, which led to Kamara falling over Sporting 'keeper Tim Melia. Besler didn’t agree.

“It’s obvious [to me] when you look at the replay that the correct decision was not made,” Besler said. “I feel bad for us, and for all of the fans that came out. It ruined the game.”

Sporting KC found themselves on the opposite end of a penalty shout in stoppage time, when Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham collided with Diego Rubio to challenge a cross.

“At the end of the game,” Vermes said, “[there should’ve been] a penalty kick, where our guy gets punched in the head, where their guy [Bingham] completely misses the ball, and our guy headed the ball before him – that’s 100-percent a penalty kick. Nobody on the field, including the goalie, has the ability to punch someone in the head, in the game. It doesn’t matter. That is reckless.”

Vermes said he felt lucky nobody walked away injured, citing in particular a late challenge that again involved Rubio. But ultimately he was glad the players maintained composure on the field and continued pushing until their 83rd-minute breakthrough. 

“It’s an unbelievable mentality from our team,” Vermes said. “Post, crossbar, post. You name it, we had it. It was all over the place. Their goalkeeper made a few very good saves. But we were there. We were all over it. I can’t say one bad thing about our team at all. They did everything. They would have won the game 1-0. If you don’t call the penalty that’s not a penalty then we’re all fine.”