The Seattle Sounders went into their Wednesday night match without several players they wished were there, and with a referee they very much wished wasn’t there.
Ricardo Salazar had been the referee who made at least two crucial calls that the Sounders believe cost them the 2012 U.S. Open Cup final at Kansas City in August, and he became part of the story again Wednesday as the Sounders – playing short-handed for the final hour – managed a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake.
“The thing is: Our fans know his name,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “If many fans know the name of the referee, I think that’s an indication. It just seems that whenever something is 50-50, we don’t get the break with him.”
Schmid voiced no particular problem with the two yellow cards that sent defender Zach Scott from the game in the 30th minute.
But he was suspicious of a possible handball in the box that wasn’t called late in the first half. He was unhappy that RSL’s Chris Schuler received a yellow card rather than a red for dumping Fredy Montero as he seemed to break free on a run to the goal. And he was mystified that Salt Lake was allowed to take a corner kick after the allotted stoppage time had ticked away.
“I do have a problem when you put two minutes of extra time on, and they take the corner at two minutes and 30 seconds at the end of the game,” Schmid said. “So it’s like, OK, we’re going to give them another chance to score. I just thought we were hard done by the officiating all night in certain regards.”
General manager Adrian Hanauer said the club had signaled its hopes to have seen the last of Salazar after the Open Cup final, when he called a handball that led to Kansas City’s 1-0 lead in regulation, and then waved off a save by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning in the penalty-kick shootout that gave the cup to Kansas City. There also was a 5-0 disparity in yellow cards in that game – including two on Patrick Ianni, which left the Sounders shorthanded over the final minutes of added time.
“I’m not at all happy that Salazar was assigned this game,” Hanauer said. “The league was well aware of my feelings after the Open Cup game. I think his decisions lost us the game in Kansas City, and I think his decisions (Wednesday) possibly took two points from us. I don’t know what it is, but I’m not comfortable. But ultimately the league watches all the games, and they insist on making assignments like they’ve made. We’ll have to live with it.”
The controversial calls came on a night when the Sounders already were challenged by key players missing due to injuries and national team duties. Among them were forward Eddie Johnson, midfielders Steve Zakuani and Mario Martinez, and defenders Adam Johansson, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Then, the patchwork lineup became even patchier when Scott was sent off.
Still, Seattle managed the draw, while running its streak to 330 minutes without allowing a goal.
“Amazing,” Gspurning said. “Mike Seamon as right defender was great. And this was a great effort of organization. We shouldn’t forget this: that we normally play with other guys on the back, but we saw today that we can trust every player.”
Whatever satisfaction the club might have felt from earning a point under such circumstances was mitigated by the arithmetic of the MLS standings as the regular season ticks down.
The draw leaves Seattle (14-7-11) three points behind second-place Salt Lake (17-11-5) in the Western Conference standings. RSL has one game remaining, while the Sounders have two.
Seattle returns to league play at 6 p.m. Sunday, when FC Dallas visits. Scott will miss that one also due to red-card firstname.lastname@example.org