Yellow card peril: yet another reason to avoid the dreaded 4th-vs.-5th MLS elimination match


As the playoffs move forward, clubs and their fans will develop a deeper understanding of why it is so dreadfully important to finish first, second or third … and to avoid those final two conference playoff seedings at all costs.

Chicago knows today, for instance, the cost of that poor finishing in its regular season finale, the 1-1 draw at home with D.C. United. Rather than finishing in a higher spot, afforded the luxury of a sit-and-wait for a weekend match, the Fire had to play in last night’s single-game knockout round. And came the knockout.

(MORE: analysis of last night’s match in Chicago)

So the Fire is done.

For Houston, the news is better … but the Dynamo are hardly on the bullet train toward MLS Cup success and downtown parades and such. They get just three full days of rest before facing Eastern champion Kansas City in the first of a two-leg series. One of those days (today) will be largely eaten up with travel.

And here’s a big reason why this extra match begins to sting, one that doesn’t get as much attention:

Yellow cards have a tendency to mount.

Critical midfielder Brad Davis and goalkeeper Tally Hall collected cautions last night, and both deserved, it should be said. (At one point, Hall held a gathered ball for every bit of15 seconds; if this had been a women’s Olympic game, we would have seen the rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area for Chicago.)

Referee Baldomero Toledo managed the contest well, nit-picking on some little things early and whistling for all the fouls early, a trusty way of quickly establishing the correct tone, and yet a method that too many referees simply cannot get figured out. The result was a match that finished with just two yellow cards, quite acceptable by MLS standards.

But … Hall and Davis are now on notice. If they are cautioned once more they will miss the following playoff contest. (Unless it happens in the second leg of a conference final; in that case, they would not miss the MLS Cup final.)

Hall was excellent last night, just as he was in the Dynamo’s 2011 playoff run. Davis is Davis, a man who greatly assists the Dynamo midfield possession and scares the pooh out of teams with those deadeye set piece deliveries.

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images
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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.