I’m not going to cry about the loss to SKC. Everyone watching this 11-game unbeaten streak knew it had to end at some point; falling to the number one team in the Eastern Conference is a worthy foe. I’m not even going to complain about the referee letting the game run for two additional minutes past the amount of stoppage time given by the fourth official. That cost RSL the game, Matthew Foerster — mister referee doling out 6 yellow cards and a red in your 16th match officiating — just so you know. No, that stuff happens, and it’s unfortunate that in the 2 minutes of bonus extra time, SKC took advantage of a situation where the players weren’t ready — understandably a bit confused and irritated after Ike Opara shoves Nat Borchers during a conversation with the referee for no apparent reason — and capitalized on a game-winning set-piece.
What makes this game a difficult one to deal with is the inconsistency of officiating. There, I said it. Add my voice to the hordes of other RSL fans whining about crappy refereeing.
The thing is, this is going to happen, too. And I don’t know that I agree with Jason Kreis’ assessment that younger officials shouldn’t be assigned to “big games”, because that requires someone to make a judgement call about what a “big game” is. Do we send Matthew Forrester to officiate Chivas v Toronto FC because they’re both at the bottom of the tables? I would argue that for either team, every game is a big game — you can’t apply judgement like that to games and, as such, these referees are just going to have to be thrown into the fire and next year we’ll look back on this in the same way that people did about the NFL replacement referees during the referee strike.
The problem with last night’s game is that, if all things were being judged equally, SKC could easily have been down a man as well. Or Chris Wingert could have been spared the second yellow. Or the game could have been blown dead after the allotted 5 minutes of stoppage time. In any of those cases, we’re looking at a different game, with scores ranging from 1 – 0 in our favor to a 1 – 1 draw, to even more goals for RSL.
Yes, Real Salt Lake was out-played. You can see that looking at the stats. 279 total passes to KC’s 407, with a completion percentage of 67% to their 78%. That has a lot to do with being without many of our more senior players, that number goes up significantly with a dreadlocked veteran on the pitch. This game was going to be about who could dominate possession and, uncharacteristically, that wasn’t RSL. But, again, this game becomes very different if RSL didn’t have to pull out both their forwards after the red card when Olmes Garcia came on the field. Olmes + Joao Plata = trouble for KC’s back line, and their back line already wasn’t looking to great. The bobble by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen wasn’t the first bobble. In fact, he looked about as bad between the sticks as anyone I’ve seen, even Brian Rowe, and I tend to be pretty complimentary about goalkeepers.
The next match is a road trip to New York. It will be tough for me, personally, because we’ll be on our own road trip to California and the match will be happening while I will be at WordCamp San Francisco. Thank God for MLS Live.