Now that the organization has had a few days to analyze and evaluate the situation, Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey told reporters on Thursday the club does not intend to appeal the red card shown to Brad Evans in Sunday night’s win against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Lagerwey stressed the club’s first priority is to support its players, but league rules make it so that an appeal is not always a worthwhile notion.
"What matters in situations like this is not what we believe but what we can prove," said Lagerwey, an actual lawyer before he started working in MLS front offices.
As Lagerwey explained it, appeals like this are not decided on by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, but by an independent committee. The official MLS rulebook states that the committee is "comprised of one (1) member of US Soccer, one (1) member of the CSA and one (1) member of PRO (MLS does NOT sit on this panel) will oversee the review of any player appeal." Lagerwey said in order to get a red card like this rescinded, "you have to prove to this committee of referees that their colleague made a serious and obvious error, and that’s the legal standard, a serious and obvious error."
In light of this requirement, Lagerwey said that the Sounders organization talked it over internally and with others around the league, deciding that "we didn’t feel like we were able to meet that standard and therefore we chose not to appeal." As many know based on Evans’ own comments, the player wasn’t actually attempting to strike his opponent—but according to Lagerwey, the video evidence doesn’t exactly look great in Evans’ defense. "I think it’s hard to reach the standard of serious and obvious error by the referee that he couldn’t possibly have construed that as something in the direction of Edgar when those guys are so close like that."
Lagerwey also clarified the situations of the various internationals on the Sounders roster and whether or not some would be able to return for next Wednesday’s match against Houston Dynamo. While Brian Schmetzer said that he expected Jordan Morris to be back and available, Lagerwey said that it’s still up in the air. "It’ll be up to them if Jordan is released or not, obviously we hope that he is, but that’s something that’s ultimately US Soccer’s decision."
Schmetzer’s comments also left a sliver of hope that Nicolas Lodeiro would be back and available, but as of now, Lagerwey doesn’t seem to see it happening. He said that the travel time, between Uruguay’s two games and the return to Seattle, makes it pretty unlikely that Lodeiro would be back and ready to play by kickoff. Whether or not Lodeiro plays both matches for Uruguay is also a factor, but because these are World Cup qualifiers, Lagerwey seemed to think that an early release was out of the question.
The Sounders GM admitted that while it is possible to "go online" and come up with a travel itinerary that would get Lodeiro back to Seattle from Barranquilla, Colombia after Uruguay’s match there, "that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for Nico, depending on how he plays and how he feels. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea for our team."
So even though Lodeiro is, as Lagerwey said, "willing to move heaven and earth to get here and be supportive of his teammates," he believes that the Sounders have a good enough team that they can win without Lodeiro on Wednesday. No need to put the player’s health at risk and rush him across the hemisphere overnight just to play a few minutes in a game that the rest of the team is capable of winning.
This could all be nullified, however, by the fact that Lodeiro earned a yellow card in Thursday’s match against Venezuela and is suspended for Uruguay’s next match against Colombia. There has been no official word from the club or Uruguay at this point, and the Sounders don’t train for the next couple days. But this certainly increases the likelihood that Lodeiro will be released early by Uruguay, in time to play against Houston.
It sounds like Joevin Jones is in a similar situation, because Trinidad and Tobago have a Caribbean Cup qualifying match in Martinique on the 11th. Lagerwey said that Jones is too far from Seattle to make it back in time for the match against Houston: "I think it is physically impossible to get him back here."
Regarding all of Seattle’s internationals, but especially Morris, Lagerwey said that the club tries to be as respectful as possible to the national team and coaching staff. As far as US Soccer, Lagerwey said that "they’ve been very respectful of us with the Dempsey process, and I want to make sure that we are returning the favor to them." Since the US is just playing in friendly matches, the stakes are a little different than if they were playing in qualifiers like Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago, so it’s a little easier to get players released early.
Rather than criticize MLS and their relationship to FIFA international breaks that creates these headaches, Lagerwey said that it’s not a one-sided issue: "if we had had a more consistent season, then this game wouldn’t be so critically important at this time of the year." All teams have to deal with these issues, because it’s just part of MLS right now. Lagerwey said that he was glad that this is the only FIFA date that’s caused the team any issues this year, and that "we have to be supportive of the league."