In the 35th minute, a poor back-pass by a Dynamo player put Sounders FC’s Steve Zakuani in on goal — here’s a clip of the play on the league website. The speedy midfielder beat Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric to the ball and appeared to draw contact in an attempt to hurdle a late challenge.
Zakuani jumped a bit to avoid contact but was still taken down. As I saw referee Kevin Stott reach for his pocket I knew Deric was in danger of being sent off. Instead Stott shockingly gave a yellow card to Zakuani, apparently for diving.
In postgame, I asked Steve for his perspective of the play.
“I mean I think it’s a foul,” he said. “That’s the bottom line of it. I was kind of cheating a little bit and one of the defenders made a bad pass so I was onside. I just wanted to push it around the ‘keeper and score a goal. It’s a foul. I don’t think he killed me. He didn’t crush me so it didn’t look that bad. I’m trying to jump over him so I can get to the ball. I couldn’t do it and I fell over. I’m not going to dive there. I’m in on goal. It’s an open goal. He gives me a yellow card. I don’t know. For me, it’s a foul. There’s not much more I say about that. In most football I watch that’s a red card for the goalkeeper — he’s the last man. Over here I don’t know why I got a yellow card.”
Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid saw it the similarly when I asked him about it.
“I think Zakuani went over him in turns of diving a bit,” Schmid said, “but if Zakuani keeps his legs on the ground maybe he ends up with a broken leg or a major injury. One of the things with refereeing is if you jump a tackle it’s no foul, so you have to leave your leg in there to get hurt or get injured for the ref to call a foul. If the guy makes a bad foul and I’m jumping over it, it’s still a foul because I’m trying to not get injured and I can’t keep the ball because he makes a reckless challenge. But sometimes the referee want you to keep your leg in there — so you get injured, get carried off the field and then they’ll give you a penalty. That’s not right.”
That craziest part of all of it, I thought, was the yellow card for simulation. That was absurd. Even if Stott thought there wasn’t enough for a penalty kick, surely Zakuani wasn’t intentionally trying to deceive anyone by going to the ground.
I asked Zakuani if that made things worse.
“Yeah, because I’m not trying to dive,” he said. “I’m trying to get out of his way so I can jump over him. I ended up losing my footing and fell, but he caused me to do it. I think either way it’s a foul. If you’re going at that speed and someone touches you a little bit, you lose your balance. It wasn’t the hardest hit but it was a foul.”
I agree. See for yourself…