Whitecaps and Galaxy agree: Too many red cards right now

Both teams expressed their frustration over red card decisions in this new MLS season after a 0-0 draw at BC Place on Saturday night.

VANCOUVER – Contrary to some belief, goalless draws can offer a variety of storylines, despite a lack of scoring. On Saturday night at BC Place, the only real talking point from a 0-0 draw between the Vancouver Whitecaps and LA Galaxy was a controversial red card decision that dictated the outcome of an early-season MLS Western Conference clash.

Much to the ire of Whitecaps fans, who saw striker Masato Kudo suspended by the MLS Disciplinary Committee during the week, referee Jair Marrufo sent off Matias Laba just before the half-hour mark for a sliding tackle on LA’s Mike Magee. Though the Argentine defensive midfielder won the ball, Marrufo deemed Laba’s challenge was dangerous with studs showing and gave him his marching orders to leave Vancouver a man down for the remaining hour of the game.

It was one of four red cards shown in this weekend’s action in MLS, as the league and its referees have been busy handing out discipline as part of a new mandate to try and protect the players this season.

However, in the eyes of LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, the quality of play in the league is suffering.

“There’s just been too many red cards in this league, it’s ruining games,” Arena said. “Those are difficult games and it doesn’t make the game entertaining and I don’t think the fans like it. It seems like every game in this league, there’s a red card, and it’s been tough.”

His counterpart in Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson concurred with Arena, stating his players are a bit unsure as to what type of challenge is now acceptable in league games.

“I agree with Bruce’s comments. There are too many red cards,” Robinson told reporters. “Fans pay their hard-earned money to watch games of football and watch the best players on the field 11v11. The players are unsure (about what a good tackle is). We’ve got one of the top midfield players in the league (in Laba), whose made a tackle today, and he’s been sent off. I’m not sure, why.”

It is not just MLS coaches that are concerned by the league’s disciplinary crackdown. ‘Caps goalkeeper David Ousted, who made a spectacular save in the second half to earn 10-man Vancouver a clean sheet, believes the players need to provide MLS with important feedback.

“I understand what MLS is trying to do by protecting the players, but right now, we’re trying to take tackling out of the game,” Ousted said. “That’s not going to purify the game. It’s not going to make it any prettier to look at, and it’s especially not going to evolve this league. I think it ruins games more than it benefits the players.

“It’s something that needs to be looked at. We are in this together, MLS and the players, to develop this league into hopefully one of the best in the world, but I think some of the (disciplinary) things are misplaced. I think it’s a duty of the players as well to sometimes speak up and tell MLS that we’re not moving in the right direction with this (new mandate).”

With Laba’s red card shaping the contest, the Whitecaps again proved their defensive resiliency to earn a point, as the visiting Galaxy struggled to take advantage of the extra man.

“This was an opportunity that was missed, to be honest,” said Galaxy captain Nigel de Jong. “You come against ten men and you can’t finish it off. It is a point at the end, and we didn’t concede, but I would rather have three points to take back with me to LA.”

The draw was not only costly to the Whitecaps on the disciplinary front, but injury-wise as well. Captain Pedro Morales (left hip strain) and winger Kekuta Manneh (left ankle) were forced off before halftime, with Robinson admitting post-match that the pair’s injuries ‘don’t look too good.’