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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New England Revolution: Caps Battle Both Referee and Revs in 1-1 Draw

Joel Prosser@@JoelProsserCorrespondent IApril 7, 2011

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 6:  John Thorrington #11 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC argues a red card call on teammate Gershon Koffie #28 with referee Baldomero Toldeo during their MLS game April 6, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Vancouver Whitecaps and New England Revolution battled to a 1-1 draw at Empire Field. Perhaps a draw is a fitting result, as both teams were not only competing with each other, but also with a referee who had delusions of grandeur. 

Perhaps if referee Baldomero Toledo wanted to have an impact on the match, he should have been a player, because he certainly affected the course of the match more than any of the players on either side with his heavy-handed and irrational calls.

A total of six yellow cards and three red cards, including two straight reds, were shown in a match that wasn’t overly physical and didn’t have many dangerous tackles I would think worthy of a yellow on most nights. (Disclaimer: I’m not a FIFA referee, but I do watch a lot of soccer, so either most other referees are incorrect in how they call the game, or Toledo is).

Let's take a look at the cards:

Six Minutes: Atiba Harris (Whitecaps)—booked for one of the first tackles of the match. Could have been a yellow, could have been just a foul—heavy-handed to issue a yellow without hesitation this early in the match, especially without any previous warnings or an injury.

14 Minutes: Ryan Cochrane (Revolution)—booked for dissent. There didn’t appear to be anything worthy of a card when viewed from the stands, just the usual complaint about a foul. But only Cochrane and Toledo know what was said, so maybe it was justified. Usually referees have pretty thick skin, though.

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25 Minutes: Camilo (Whitecaps)—booked for diving. The card was shown as soon as Camilo went down. Hard to call this one diving, as Camilo (5’7”) was tangled up trying to split a pair of defenders who were six inches taller than him. Shouldn’t the reigning MLS player of the week get a little bit of respect here? Especially seeing as how this was the first time a player on either side was even warned for diving, let alone carded.

40 Minutes: Zack Schilawski (Revolution)—again, another yellow card for dissent. I’m seeing a pattern here.

45 Minutes: Gershon Koffie (Whitecaps)—the first, but not last, red card of the night. Koffie and and Pat Phelan of the Revolution both went up for a header, and there was incidental contact with Koffie’s upper arm and Phelan’s head. Toledo again didn’t show any restraint in immediately pulling out a red card. This wasn’t an elbow to face; just normal contact between two big guys both going for the same ball in the air. At most, it's a foul or yellow card on Koffie, not a straight red. You can see the same sort of contact off any corner kick.

Vancouver is now a man down.

49 Minutes: Eric Hassli is booked for... I don’t know what he was booked for. An elbow? Apparently Toledo didn’t know either, as he originally called a foul on Alston as both he and Hassli were fighting for control of the ball near the sidelines. Toledo called the foul of Alston, and awarded Vancouver a free kick. Then, as Toledo approaches, he noticed that Alston had a bloody (possibly broken) nose, and gave Hassli a yellow. 

Now on replay it seems clear that while they were tangled up, Alston was fouling Hassli, but Hassli did throw an elbow back that caught Alston in the face as he stumbled.

My problem with this scenario is that Toledo did NOT see the foul. If he did, he would have carded Hassli immediately given his quick judgements earlier in the game and not awarded Vancouver a free kick. Toledo didn’t confer with any of the other officials who might have had a better view, he just saw the bloody nose and immediately carded Hassli. 

How can you call a foul and book someone when you didn’t see the actual violation or at least talk it over with one of the other officials who did see it? For all Toledo knew, Alston could have had a bloody nose from hitting the pitch or running into Hassli’s shoulder as he fouled him. 

And the original free kick to Vancouver? Toledo let that stand. And how does that make sense? If Hassli got the yellow, then how did the Whitecaps get a free kick out of it?

56 Minutes: Hassli gets a second yellow and is then ejected. Now this is about the only card shown in the game that I don’t have a problem with. 

Hassli scored a goal off a penalty, and then took off his jersey and threw it into the crowd in celebration. That is an automatic yellow. Stupid move on Hassli’s part, but I can only assume in the heat of the moment after scoring the goal he had a brain cramp and forgot about the yellow he already had.

For those keeping track, the Whitecaps are now up 1-0 at this point in the game, but now are down two(!) men.

74 Minutes: A.J. Soares (Revolution) picks up the second straight red card of the match.  Now keep in mind my obvious bias as a Whitecaps fan. This was not worthy of a red card.

Soares comes in diagonally from behind and on the right side of Atiba Harris along the sidelines.  With cleats down,  he slides in and gets the ball first, then takes down Harris. This was not a scoring play. This was not a dangerous tackle. At most, it could be worthy of a yellow given the precedent set with the first card of the match.

Again, no hesitation or consultation with the other officials, as Toledo shows an immediate red card before Harris and Soares even have a chance to get to their feet.

All in all, this was brutal officiating. 

Six yellows, one ejection from accumulated cards and two straight red cards in a game.  If the referee had only exercised a little judgement, restraint or just a light hand in controlling the match, the game maybe had three fouls worthy of a yellow.

The Whitecaps were down a man for 45 minutes.  For 18 of those minutes, they were down two men. After trading chances in the first half, the Whitecaps sat back in a 4-4-1 formation (later 4-3-1) and defended tenaciously while counter-attacking whenever possible to keep the play in the opposing end.

Eventually, the Revolution scored a goal in injury time to tie it up. 

Giving up any points due to a late goal in injury time hurts. But honestly, when the second half started, and the Caps were looking at a 0-0 score, but down a man, I thought a draw would be a pretty good result. 

Even when up 1-0 but down two men, I was still thinking a draw is the best result possible. 

After all, how many times do you see a team lose when their their opponent has to play two men short?

So as a fan, I can accept the 1-1 draw as a good result given the circumstances. The game was still entertaining, and the Whitecaps and Revolution had to battle not only each other, but also the whims of Toledo.

I’m looking forward to watching the Whitecaps play the Houston Dynamo this Sunday in their second road game of the season. Hopefully this time the referee isn’t determined to be the star of the match.

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