A day after being fined and suspended, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid makes it clear that he doesn't feel as though Ricardo Salazar is biased.
We all say things that we regret in the heat of the moment. In talking to the press for the first time since being handed a $2,000 fine and a one-game suspension for his criticisms of referee Ricardo Salazar, Schmid did his best to walk back some of what he said that got him in so much trouble.
He made it clear that neither he nor the Sounders blame Wednesday's result on the actions of Salazar. Schmid rejected the notion that Salazar had some kind of ax to grind with him or the Sounders. Most importantly, perhaps, Schmid admitted he needs to do a better job of getting over his consternation anytime he sees that Salazar is reffing a Sounders game.
"I certainly have to admit, at times, when I see his name as the referee, it's sort of like a red flag goes up in front of me, and I have to get over that," Schmid said (full statement here). "I have to be able to put that aside. I don't think any referee in this league would go into a game harboring ill will or ill feelings toward a team."
Schmid didn't expressly say it, but he also seems to understand that he has some part to play in fanning the flames of outrage Sounders fans have been expressing during the past couple of days. We saw in the stadium when the crowd started chanting "Salazar sucks" on Wednesday. We've seen it on Twitter with unbridled anger asking for nothing less than Salazar's firing. We've seen it manifested in a petition that seems to seek action that is already under way. We've seen it in the comments sections on Sounder at Heart.
Regardless of what he said at the time, Schmid is right to walk it back now. Focusing on the referee is wrong, almost no matter the circumstances. All that does is serve as a distraction, both on what happened and what needs to happen moving forward. MLS could make a public pronouncement today that Salazar will never be involved in another Sounders game and it would merely deflect the narrative.
Did a preponderance of 50/50 calls go against the Sounders? Probably. Was this seemingly part of a pattern with Salazar, stretching all the way back to 2010? Clearly, many think so, including Schmid. Does that prove Salazar is biased? No. Does any of this warrant Salazar's performance being the focal point three days later? No way.
There were so many compelling angles to dissect after that game, and none of them were supposed referee bias. Mike Seamon ending a more than two-year absence from league play. Michael Gspurning standing on his head. The defense not allowing a goal in 330 minutes. Another amazing performance from Brad Evans while playing out of position. Marcus Hahnemann being on the bench. But so much of the conversation has revolved around Salazar.
Fans absolutely have the right to be upset. There is nothing wrong with arguing any number of the calls. What seems to be out of line -- and frankly reeks of a certain amount of victimhood -- is that Salazar somehow has it in for the Sounders. Or even more that MLS is actively playing a part in it. Salazar might not be the best ref in MLS, but I for one am satisfied with the idea that people far more qualified than me will make that determination.
Nothing good will come from this idea that the world is out to stifle the Sounders. Schmid seems to have moved on. So should we.