Sigi Schmid was hot — and it had nothing to do with the Kansas City weather.
Before the U.S. Open Cup final, a storm rolled through, delayed the competition and caused temperatures to drop from sweltering to downright Seattle-like. But that was about the only thing that went the Sounders FC’s way on this night. It seemed that every 50/50 call went against the Sounders. Then there were some outright phantom calls, too. And Schmid was so upset he couldn’t bite his lip.
“It’s difficult when you’re playing against a team at home, so the crowd helps them, and then when you’re playing against the referee as well, and he makes some absolutely, I thought, ridiculous calls,” Schmid said, calling out referee Ricardo Salazar. “It’s very tough to win.”
Schmid made that remark, unprovoked, during his opening post-match statement. He went on to criticize the officiating because the Sounders received five yellow cards to Sporting KC’s zero in a match that was physical on both sides. He was also angry about a handball call on Zach Scott that resulted in Kei Kamara scoring the first goal of the match. He was upset about Sporting KC midfielder Paulo Nagamura being awarded a re-do during penalty kicks and about the decision to do the penalty kicks on the rowdy side of the field.
On the handball-in-the-box call, Schmid said: “The handball that he called — I don’t know how he can see it. He’s not at a good angle to see it, if it is a handball, and nobody I’ve talked to has seen a replay that shows it being a definite handball or not.”
When asked about the handball call, Scott said he didn’t want to criticize the officiating, but he did say, “I’ll be the first guy to put my hand up if I make a mistake, and I hope that the refs would do the same.”
During the fifth frame of penalty kicks, Nagamura was initially denied by Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, but he was awarded a re-do because Gspurning supposedly left his line too early. Nagamura made the second kick, and after Sounders forward Eddie Johnson missed his opportunity to answer, the match was over.
“Maybe people forget that I’m quick,” Gspurning said. “I didn’t do something bad. I was unlucky.”
Asked if the re-do call was the turning point of the match, Gspurning said, “Of course, it was a turning point. If it’s not a turning point, then I don’t know what is.”
Schmid’s take: “(Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy) Nielsen moved ahead of every shot as well, but he didn’t call any back there. All of a sudden he calls one back, and he does it indiscriminately?”
Then Schmid went after the fact that the Sounders were called for so many yellow cards.
“How does a team commit an equal amount of fouls as the opponent, and one team gets five yellow cards and the other team gets zero?” Schmid said. “That’s unbelievable to me.”
Officially, the Sounders committed 19 fouls. Sporting KC committed 16.
Schmid’s remarks come after a frustrating tournament for the Sounders. They often felt like U.S. Soccer was tired of them winning the U.S. Open Cup. They had won three straight and hadn’t lost a tournament game in franchise history before Wednesday night. The Sounders’ frustration includes not being awarded a home match for the championship game. In selecting Kansas City as the host site, U.S. Soccer claimed Sporting KC had matched Seattle’s bid and won a coin flip. But that coin flip was done in secret.
“There were some things I just didn’t understand the whole tournament for us,” Schmid said. “Our backs were against the wall this whole tournament. It was as difficult a road as it could be. I’m very proud of what our team did, getting to the point and battling and not giving up and taking the game into overtime and battling all the obstacles that we’ve had to face.”