Sporting Kansas City’s Aurélien Collin saw straight red on Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew, a decision that was overturned today after the club’s appeal. You can see the play, above.
Collin will now be eligible to play tomorrow against the visiting Galaxy, though Edvin Jurisvic did cost him 35 minutes in Wednesday’s match. Though Sporting still won the game, 2-1, the dismissal still left us with three thoughts about the decision’s causes, implications:
1.) Collin’s reputation
Coming into the season, Aurélien Collin’s three years in Major League Soccer had featured 31 yellow cards but only one dismissal. This year, that’s changed. Maybe the odds are catching up to the physical rearguard, but after an astounding 2013 with 15 yellows and zero reds, Collin’s been dismissed twice in 2014. Other the last nine games, Collin’s tripled his number of career red cards.
So what’s going on here? Obviously, a mistake. At least, that’s what caused the most recent red card, but seeing why Collin was given his marching orders, you wonder if the Sporting defender is being subjected to some heightened scrutiny. Is that record of yellow cards drawing more attention to Collin’s defending.
In fairness to the officials, “more attention” has been a theme throughout the season. Across the league, we’re seen red cards handed out somewhat liberally, phenomena that’s led to a slew of lopsided and “wow, that changed quick” results (such as when Collin was dismissed at New England earlier this year).
Perhaps Collin’s aggressive approach doesn’t fit as well in this new, hyper-critical MLS. Or maybe this is just a phase – an anomalous span, after which Collin will go back to his line-walking ways. Regardless, the KC defender’s reputation for testing officials may a part of this equation.
After Wednesday’s decision, I wonder: Was Collin being judged on play or repute? I think it’s the former, but I’m keeping my mind open to the latter.
2.) MLS is still way ahead of the game on this
An official screwed up. Kansas City appealed. The call was reversed. While the team doesn’t get to replay those last 35, it doesn’t matter. Sporting still won, and after the independent review panel upheld their appeal, they’ll get Collin back for tomorrow’s showcase against the visiting Galaxy.
It almost goes without saying, but after a World Cup where the rest of the world marveled at vanishing spray (while at one time questioning the accuracy of goal-line technology), some perspective is nice: Major League Soccer’s willingness to redress these mistakes leaves the league far ahead of most on this issue.
Rather than sit back and wax philosophically about the sanctity of each match, MLS is being proactive, a process that involves confessing the obvious: Officials are fallible. But instead of adopting a quixiotic approach that romanticizes the value of those imperfections, MLS is saying they can address issues, offer a solution, and provide some negative feedback to the process. They’ve implemented a process by which they can evolve.
Unfortunately, that prompts the next question; or, to look at it another way, the next stage of the process:
3.) How to make it better
This may not be something MLS can snap their fingers and implement, but a solution will happen one day. At some point in the future, people are going to demand a real-time fix to such obvious errors, and while there’s always concern for “flow of the game,” there are two situations were a quick, off-field review can happen, providing a solution that would respect the game’s flow.
That’s because on penalty kicks and red cards, the game’s already stopped, usually for 60 or 120 seconds. Given how much matches change in those situations, there’s a huge incentive to get those calls right, even if it means adding a little more time to that stoppage.
In a world where each MLS game is streamed online, where the World Cup showed how easy and elegant you can communicate with the lead official, having a centralized review (a la what the NBA is implementing) just isn’t that hard. When everybody on Twitter is able to review controversial calls within seconds, it makes too much sense to ask the league to do so, too.
This isn’t about making a throw-in last forever. It isn’t about getting endlessly scrutinizing every little midfield infraction. It’s about asking “where would extra review be reasonable?” Given how the importance of dismissals and penalties (and the state of the technology), it’s more unreasonable to give in to an antiquated view about how high-level soccer should be played.
Whether this is issue needs to go through FIFA or IFAB, I don’t know. Sometimes, it’s unclear where those lines are drawn (or, are enforced). Regardless, this feels like implementing substitutions, or moving toward goal-line technology – controversies at which history will scoff.
If tradition-steeped sports like baseball, cricket, and tennis have a place for in-game technology, soccer can get there, too.