This is the MLS Referee of the Year? This is the best the league has to offer?
You can thank referee Hilario Grajeda and his passive officiating for the physical tone set in the MLS Cup final. Even with the ridiculous amount of fouls (40), the 46-year-old clearly let both clubs "play." But of the five yellow cards he handed out on Saturday, it was the one Grajeda didn't award that played a role in SKC's shootout victory.
Just ask Aurelien Collin.
No player was cautioned more in 2013 than the SKC defender. On 13 different occasions, the Frenchman was booked for his physical play. He lived up to that reputation once more on Saturday.
After escaping a foul in the 23rd minute with his charge from behind on Robbie Findley, Collin failed to escape being cautioned in the 35th minute. He was warned. One more reckless challenge and he would surely be given his marching orders.
That moment came in the 69th minute.
Findley's dribble put him in a prime position to create a scoring chance for Real Salt Lake, but Collin was there to ensure he didn't. A lost challenge turned into a surefire foul. A second yellow was the deserved and correct call.
It wasn't given.
Not only was Collin allowed to stay on the pitch, but he would equalize six minutes later. He would then score the final penalty kick that clinched Kansas City's second-ever MLS Cup title. To complete the black-eyed trifecta, Collin would be awarded the MLS Cup MVP.
Now, this is not to say that Grajeda gifted SKC the MLS Cup title. There is no way to tell how a 10-manned club at home would've responded. The argument here is simple: All of Collin's "achievements" should've never transpired.
Grajeda's poor judgement was the turning point of the 2013 MLS Cup final.
As Simon Borg reports on MLS' official website, even Findley was aware the Frenchman had no business being on the pitch:
We were expecting it. We knew they were going to come and hit us hard and be physical up top...I definitely thought it was a second yellow. It's the decision [the referee] made, and I can't really do anything about it. We know there were going to be calls that were going their way.
Some will argue that Grajeda was justified in not booking Collin a second time. By pocketing his card, he correctly chose not to impact the match. Somehow, making the obvious and correct call would've tainted a cup final.
Collin equalized. Collin clinched. Collin was awarded the MVP.
You can't taint a cup final any more than that.
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