Since every pro sports league has rules in place prohibiting its personnel from trashing game officials, Major League Soccer had no recourse but to fine and suspend Sounders coach Sigi Schmid for the comments he made Wednesday that disparaged referee Ricardo Salazar.
Rankled that his defender, Zach Scott, had drawn two yellow cards, forcing a mandatory ejection for an already short-handed team, and upset that Salazar denied Seattle’s appeal for a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time, Schmid used a sideline TV interview to spectacularly undress the referee.
“We have our 12th man in our fans, and they (Real Salt Lake) have their 12th man, which is Ricardo Salazar,” said Schmid. “Every time we have him, it’s a difficult game for us. It’s tough for us to play. It always seems to be that we’re very unlucky. Things go wrong. There are handballs in the box that he doesn’t call. It’s just a nightmare for us to play when he referees.”
Following the 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake, in which Seattle played a man down for the last hour, Schmid continued his verbal assault on Salazar.
“The thing is, our fans know his name,” Schmid said. “I don’t think many fans know the name of the referee. I think that’s an indication. I just thought we were hard done by the officiating all night in certain regards.”
Even later in his postgame remarks, Schmid made what we consider the key point of his diatribe when he said, “Lord help us if we get Salazar in the playoffs.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber Friday fined Schmid $2,000 and ordered him to sit out Sunday’s match with FC Dallas. Garber labeled Schmid’s rant “inappropriate public comments.”
“MLS requires that its players, coaches and club leadership maintain proper respect for the officials at all time,” Garber said in announcing Schmid’s fine and suspension.
By hammering on Salazar, Schmid clearly understood he would be fined and suspended, but elected to make his point because, in his estimation, the Sounders are at a disadvantage whenever Salazar referees their matches. Sounders fans, who chanted “Salazar sucks” during the match, clearly agree.
Salazar worked as the lead official in six Seattle matches this season. The Sounders won the first two, defeating Toronto 3-1 March 17 and Philadelphia 1-0 May 5. Since then, the Sounders have lost two and tied two when Salazar refereed.
The last three red cards (of four for the season) given to Sounders players were issued by Salazar who, according to Schmid, called a disgraceful game the night (Aug. 8) in Kansas City the Sounders lost the U.S. Open Cup in a penalty shootout.
During that contest, Salazar sent Patrick Ianni off with two yellow cards. Schmid also fumed over what he considered a phantom handball that resulted in a goal for Sporting Kansas City in the 84th minute, and Salazar’s decision to allow Sporting midfielder Paulo Nagamura a do-over on a penalty kick.
“It’s difficult when you’re playing against a team at home, so the crowd helps them,” Schmid said after the Open Cup final. “And then when you’re playing against the referee as well and he makes some absolutely, I thought, ridiculous calls, it’s very tough to win.”
It’s easy to see why Schmid doesn’t want Salazar anywhere near his team during the playoffs, and by publicly calling out the referee Schmid has placed both Salazar and MLS in awkward spots.
True or not, Salazar is a biased official in the minds of Sounders coaches, players and fans, compromised beyond redemption. Whatever reputation for impartiality he had is shot, and for the sake of its own credibility, MLS cannot afford to assign Salazar to work any more Sounders games.
MLS also needs to consider that maybe Schmid is correct, that Salazar is a bad referee, biased or both.
Smart guy, Sigi Schmid. Believing he couldn’t get a fair shake from Salazar on the field, he made his case against the referee public. He no doubt feels $2,000 and a one-game suspension is a small price to pay to rid himself of Salazar.