Red no more: Harrington, Watson have cards rescinded

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Portland’s broadcast team was incredulous as Michael Harrington and Je-Vaughn Watson were given their walking orders in last week’s first half. Turns out, they were right to be skeptical. On Thursday, Major League Soccer announced the red cards for violent conducted had been rescinded, leaving the Portland left back and FC Dallas attacker eligible to play this weekend.

Harrington’s Timbers, searching for their first win of the season, will host the Seattle Sounders. Watson and Dallas are in Houston to take on the Jamaican’s former team, the Dynamo.

The incident occurred just before the 40th minute in Saturday’s match at Toyota Stadium. While play was contested down Dallas’s left, the players, occasionally drifting off camera, appeared to engage in a small confrontation, one which didn’t seem to escalate beyond shirt-pulling and arm-slapping. Called over to the far sideline, Storin Stoica eventually showed each player a red card, apparently acting on the advice of his second assistant.

Both teams finished the match with 10 men, with a late goal from Mauro Díaz giving FC Dallas a 2-1 win. The result kept Óscar Pareja’s team atop the Western Conference with a 3-0-1 record while Portland slumped to 0-2-2.

According to Major League Soccer’s announcement, and independent panel made up of representatives of U.S. Soccer, Canadian Soccer, and the Professional Referees Organization (one each) unanimously approved the reversal after a joint appeal from the clubs. The violent conduct charge would have otherwise meant a two-match suspension for each player.

Clubs are allowed to make two unsuccessful red card appeals each season, a number that stays in tact for Dallas and Portland. If an appeal is deemed “frivolous” by the panel, the player’s suspension is doubled and the team loses its right to further appeals that season.

Obviously, the opposite happened with Harrington and Watson. Not only was the appeal reasonable, it was accepted by the three-member panel, again calling into question what the second assistant saw last weekend.

Though it initially seemed like the camera had missed whatever infractions occurred, it now appears that everything was caught on tape. Only there was nothing to catch. As a result, Harrington and Watson will play on Saturday.