Silverbacks player’s face stomp ignites four red cards; overshadows upset of Colorado (video)

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source:  At least bites can only transmit disease.

The Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL should be celebrating a 2-1 upset of the Colorado Rapids, as head coach Eric Wynalda continues his winning ways in the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

Instead, they are lamenting a regrettable and heinous incident that saw a four players given red cards and both head coaches sent to the stands.

Silverbacks forward Jaime Chavez, 26, stomped on the face of prone Rapids defender Drew Moor after a battle for the ball sent Moor to the turf, opening an “inch-wide cut” on the Rapids captain. The fight that followed featured Rapids defender Marc Burch taking a swing at Chavez, and left Atlanta down to 8-men for the rest of the match.

Burch was dismissed by referee Juan Guzman, but the Silverbacks saw three players sent off: Chavez as well as Kwadwo Poku and Borfor Carr. Wynalda and his Colorado counterpart, Pablo Mastroeni, were also sent off for leaving their technical areas.

Remarkably, Atlanta only conceded once the rest of the way. Perhaps of bigger note, the incident was the first card shown of either color in the match. Three yellows were shown the rest of the way.

Head here for the video and skip to the 50-minute mark for the lead-up to the stomp and ensuing madness.

Chavez probably shouldn’t play again this season, if not longer. As for anything that ensued, it’s terrible for the game but almost understandable. If I was Burch, I would’ve responded the same way if not worse. Awful.

Portland Timbers Man of the Match: Diego Valeri

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PORTLAND, Ore. — It didn’t take long for Diego Valeri to show he’d move on from Saturday. Then, the Portland playmaker was anonymous, his greatest influence being that of a decoy that drew Seattle’s attention. It wasn’t meant to be that way, but in his hour of action, Valeri failed to make an impact.

On Thursday, Valeri’s impact was almost immediate, the Portland Designated Player creating a chance for Rodney Wallace in the third minute. That shot went wide, and a 14th minute breakaway for Diego Chara that Valeri had a part in creating also failed to beat Michael Gspurning, but after a quarter hour, there was little doubt: Portland’s most creative player wouldn’t go unnoticed in their conference semifinal finale.

In the 44th minute, after Portland had gone up 1-0, Valeri made his mark. On an attack built down the right, Valeri burst through the defense and onto a short pass from Rodney Wallace, a ball he’d pushed behind the line and into the six-yard box. There he beat Adam Moffat and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, sliding onto a shot he’d put into the far side netting for what would prove to be the series-winning goal.

source: AP
Diego Valeri’s 44th minute goal proved the series-winner as Portland advanced to MLS’s Western Conference finals. (Source: AP.)

Seattle had done their best to stop him, their physicality giving his goal a tinge of justice. In the seventh minute, DeAndre Yedlin sent him to ground clutching his angle, with the rookie right back laying him out again a few moments later. After Valeri switched to the other side, Marc Burch lad a go at him, too, initially going hard through his back to draw a whistle. The left back’s second foul on Valeri briefly forced him off the field in the 41st minute, yet the night’s most fouled man (four times) had his redemption three minutes later, running through Burch’s side for his goal.

As with most games, there were a number of quality candidates. Goal-scorer Will Johnson had a strong night, particularly after the Timbers ceded twice and needed to settle down. Rodney Wallace played a part in each of Portland’s last two goals, his cross for Futty Danso leading to the Timbers’ third score of the night.

Yet there was something about the way that Valeri started Thursday’s match, apparently intent not to repeat Saturday’s performance. Like Graham Zusi last night, his numbers don’t reflect the influence he had as a focal point for his attack. But whether it was creating early chances for Wallace or doing his own scoring, Valeri’s influence was obvious. He is our Portland Timbers Man of the Match.

Correlation or causation? Will Johnson’s near a lot of recent trouble

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Fans were talking about it after Sunday’s Osvaldo Alonso incident, so it’s probably worth a few words here: Where Will Johnson goes, trouble seems to follow. The question is whether the Portland Timbers’ captain is doing anything to bring out the worst in people. And if so, what?

If we narrow the scope to the 12 months, our trio of incidents starts last November, back when the Canadian international was still playing for Real Salt Lake.  That’s when he was the target of a homophobic slur from Seattle defender Marc Burch, who was subsequently suspended by Major League Soccer.

Earlier this season at JELD-WEN, Johnson was the target of that same slur from San Jose Earthquakes’ forward Alan Gordon, in response to which Johnson held up three fingers. Having been through this before, the veteran midfielder knew how many games Gordon would get when punishment came down from the league office.

On Sunday, video shows Johnson saying something to Osvaldo Alonso before the Seattle destroyer threw the elbow that saw him dismissed, though Johnson couldn’t remember what.

“I don’t know,” Johnson said, when asked about what he said to Alonso to draw the red card-worthy elbow. “We were just going at it. Both guys just saying things. Then it happened.”

That “it” saw Alonso dismissed in the 76th minute, but only after a brief period of chaos in Portland. We’re still waiting for final word from New York, but odds are Alonso will miss more than the obligatory game.

Asked for his thoughts after the match, Sigi Schmid didn’t forgive Alonso’s lack of control. (“He’s a veteran player. He needs to do better.”) He also didn’t hesitate to point the finger.

“All I can tell you is whenever things happen, Will Johnson always seems to be at the other end of things,” Schmid told the assembled media after Sunday’s game. “I don’t know what he says, what he does to instigate things, but obviously Ossie has to control his behavior.”

Before we can undertake any discussion of Johnson, that last part needs to be reiterated. Alonso, Gordon, and Burch were all in the wrong. In all likelihood, Johnson is doing something to get under their skin, but as professional athletes, they owe it to themselves and their teams not to get baited into such things. They can’t make it so easy for an opponent to do this.

But it’s becoming less and less likely that Johnson’s just some innocent party here. If Schmid’s intimation is correct, he may actually be an accessory – a Bill Laimbeer-esque presence, willing to do what it takes to draw the worst out of his opponent.

This isn’t quite Steven Lenhart land, but there is something strange going on. But since none of Burch, Gordon, or Alonso have provided details, it’s impossible to tell. Perhaps Johnson’s provocations have been so innocent that details would make the offenders’ actions even less explicable. Or, maybe Johnson’s benefitting from a type of “what happens on the field” agreement others don’t feel like violating. Or, maybe Johnson is perfectly innocent and this is just coincidence. We should keep that option open.

Regardless, after Sunday’s incident, Johnson was given a chance to provide his view. What, I asked, does he say to people who look at the Burch, Gordon, and Alonso incidents and want to see a pattern?

“I’ve got an army behind me,” Johnson said, referring to the Timbers’ fans. “I don’t need to say anything.”

Perhaps not, but that won’t answer any questions as to what’s drawing these responses out of Johnson’s opponents.

Sent off: Oh Osvaldo Alonso, what have you done? (video)

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Seattle losing 1-0 in the second half at Portland was bad enough, but an incident that could cost their best midfielder the rest of the regular season? That’s made things so much worse for the Sounders, especially considering Osvaldo Alonso has nobody to blame but himself.

Around the 70th minute at JELD-WEN, after a half where referee Hilario Grajeda’s reluctance to blow his whistle saw the game’s physicality slowly escalate, Alonso swung an elbow into Portland midfielder Will Johnson’s face, possibly assuming his off-the-ball action would go unnoticed. But one of Grajeda’s assistants immediately ran onto the field during a moment when a John Kennedy Hurtado foul had sorted the teams into a number of small shoving matches. When the dust cleared, Alonso had a straight red card, leaving Seattle to chase an equalizer with 10 men.

The action is idiotic – the small mistake we’ve seen over and over from players who momentarily ignore the repercussions. Behind the play, Johnson came up behind Alonso and put his chest into the Sounder’s left shoulder, appearing to say something into his face. Alonso threw is left elbow, barely making contact with the Portland captain, sending Johnson to his knees. Minutes later, after order had started to be restored, Alonso ejected from the game.

Alonso’s damage wasn’t done. On his way to the locker room, Alonso had to be restrained from going after Corey Rockwell, the AR who reported Alonso’s foul. He then had words with the fourth official, Ricardo Salazar, before teammates managed to direct him toward the locker room. Suffice to say, Alonso did not leave the field in a timely manner, leaving all to speculate how long the all-important destroyer will be sidelined for the Sounders.

He’ll automatically miss time for the red card. Whether more time is tacked on because of the post-card outburst is up to the league’s Disciplinary Committee.

For some reason, this kind of trouble controversy seems to follow Will Johnson, who has also at the center of incidents involving Marc Burch and Alan Gordon in the last year. Regardless, Alonso’s been around long enough to know throwing an elbow into an opponent’s face will bring out a red card. He can’t let Johnson draw a dismissal from him.

Unfortunately, that decision will likely cost him the rest of the regular season.

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Alan Gordon’s apology and Major League Soccer’s latest run-in with homophobic slurs

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Those who saw the video on NBCSN had no doubt what Alan Gordon said, even if he wasn’t able to confirm his words. After Sunday’s loss in Portland, the San Jose striker was escorted out of the visiting locker room by team officials, retreating to the team bus before being made available for comment.

Timber captain Will Johnson, the target of the six-letter homophobic slur, was also unwilling to comment, but after San Jose released this statement, there’s little doubt Gordon will be hit with a three-match suspension:

“I sincerely apologize for what I said in our game tonight. Although I said it in the heat of the moment, that language has no place in our game. That is not my character, but there is still no excuse for saying what I said. I made a mistake and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

The last player who committed a similar offense was Seattle Sounders defender Marc Burch, who targeted Will Johnson (then with Real Salt Lake) with the same slur last November. Burch’s three-match ban forced him to miss last year’s Western Conference finals as well as the first game of the 2013 regular season.

Combined with the red card Gordon saw in the 69th minute, San Jose could be without their striker for the next four games: vs. Portland (Apr. 21), at Chivas USA (Apr. 27), vs. Montreal (May 4), vs. Toronto (May 8).

Major League Soccer has gone to great lengths to make its stance on these comments clear. In most of the league’s stadiums, a “Don’t Cross the Line” service video plays before the match, seeking to promote “unity, respect, fair play, equality and acceptance throughout the soccer community.” The video was aired before Sunday’s match at JELD-WEN. With the league intent on showing a strong, consistent front on these issues, there’s no doubt Gordon will be suspended.

We’ve seen this type of language used in other sports, most prominently by Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant two years ago. With the sexuality of retired Major League Soccer players David Testo and Robbie Rogers recently coming to light, the issue of homophobia takes on a special significance within the MLS community.

Expect that significance to be discussed this week as the league works through this latest controversy.