The silver lining to a controversial red card in Chicago, at least for some Sounders FC fans, was that forward Obafemi Martins might be more likely to play in the U.S. Open Cup.
Martins isn’t eligible to play in MLS again until July 5 in Vancouver, so maybe he could feature in non-league competition. I asked coach Sigi Schmid about the issue after the team’s return to practice Saturday following a week off.
“No,” Schmid said of a potential role for Martins in the Open Cup, “because we had already agreed on his days off. That, to me, was still a harsh red card, because I don’t believe anybody truly saw it of the officiating crew. I think it was one of those where you add up one plus one: You see a player go down and you see another guy grabbing the ball, and so you make an assumption, ‘Well, he must’ve hit him.’ As Bora Milutinovic told me, ‘You’re German, but one plus one is not always two. Sometimes it’s three. Sometimes it’s zero. Sometimes it’s one.’ So I think it was a little bit harsh, but that’s just my feelings.”
So did the Sounders consider appealing the red card, something the team has done successfully in the past (also with Martins)?
“We considered appealing,” Schmid said, “but it was a situation that even the panoramic camera when you zoomed in, it was just not a clear-enough figure. And it’s one of those things where you’re guilty. You’re not innocent until proven guilty, you’re guilty unless you can prove you’re innocent, so we really couldn’t prove innocence off that camera. Again, it was a judgmental thing by the reaction of the officials. You could make an assumption, but they really didn’t see it. But that’s back to that one-plus-one equation, and we can’t make that same mistake.”
There was another topic that got Schmid going, and that involved fines issued to himself and the team by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violating the league’s rules on mass confrontation. It was the second violation for the Sounders — the first resulted in a warning after the Vancouver game.
“One day, hopefully somebody at the league can explain to me how we as coaches can alter that or change that,” Schmid said. “It’s a very difficult thing. Nobody wants to see mass confrontation on the field. I’m the last guy who wants to see it and I don’t want to see our team enter into it. On the same token, when somebody gets up and starts sprinting at your player, at your teammate, how do you expect other teammates to react? If they get away, if they pull our teammate away, it’s already the start of mass confrontation.
“Maybe we need to do what hockey does and everybody just grab somebody and let the two guys beat each other up. Maybe that’s the way we need to go. I’m having difficulty understanding how we can change that behavior without me going to my players and saying, ‘You can’t stand up for each other.’ It’s a natural thing to stand up for your teammates. Hopefully the league can explain to me how that gets done and then we’ll do it, because I don’t want to see it, the fans don’t want to see it and the players don’t want to be involved, but on the same token, they’re a team and they have to be there for each other, as well.”