United States defender Matt Besler is suspended for Tuesday night's rivalry match against Mexico after drawing a yellow card during the Americans' 3-1 loss to Costa Rica on Friday in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
But as it turns out, the only thing the Sporting Kansas City man was guilty of was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the play in question, Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell—who, moments earlier, had burned Besler one-on-one to score the Ticos' killer third goal—rolled on the pitch as if in agony while Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez approached from elsewhere on the field. Because Rodriguez had not seen the incident, he consulted his linesman, who apparently confirmed that Besler had committed an infraction worthy of a yellow card.
The booking meant Besler will be out of Tuesday's match, but here's the thing: Besler didn't actually do anything.
The USSF has released footage that shows the game from pitch-level, and the Besler-Campbell incident appears around the 5:40 mark. The video appears below. See for yourself.
Besler protested the decision strongly, and it's easy to understand why. Campbell not only got away with a blatant dive, but he also got an opponent suspended. It was a cynical ploy, and it worked.
As for an appeal, Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus explained why that's impossible.
For those asking about possible US protest: Per USSF, in CONCACAF no on-field decision can be protested except for mistaken identity.— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) September 9, 2013
While some might rush to blame Rodriguez as part of a nonexistent Mexican conspiracy to limit the U.S., the real fault lies with the linesman. Because he didn't see the play himself, Rodriguez correctly asked his assistant for help. The assistant failed in this instance.
In Rodriguez's defense, he turned down a couple of penalty appeals for the hosts and correctly awarded one to the U.S. near the end of the first half.
That will hardly comfort U.S. fans, however, with the team already reeling from a freak injury to midfield maestro Michael Bradley. With Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron also suspended, manager Jurgen Klinsmann has added four players to the roster ahead of Tuesday's big game.
If there's any consolation, though, for the U.S., Mexico just lost to Honduras—at the Azteca—and then fired its manager just days before a showdown with its biggest rival.
If nothing else, Tuesday will certainly be interesting.