For Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans, red cards aren’t exactly a regular occurrence. Against Portland on Sunday night, he earned only his 4th sending off in 226 appearances in Major League Soccer. Evans is known for being pretty passionate on the field for the Sounders, but his wealth of experience almost always helps him keep a cool head. Which is why he thinks the red card against Portland, similar to the one he earned at Vancouver last season, was just a misunderstanding.
According to Evans, players in MLS were told in preseason about the new rule instituted by PRO in 2017 regarding decisions of a penalty and sending off:
Law 12 – Denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) in the penalty area
DOGSO offences in the penalty area where the defender is penalized for an offence which was an attempt to play the ball or challenge the opponent for the ball, the defender will be cautioned (yellow card), not sent off (red card).
However, FIFA do not want to encourage unfair play so for DOGSO offences inside the penalty area which are not an attempt to play the ball or challenge the opponent for the ball, or deliberate handball, the offending player will still be sent off (red card).
Evans said his intention was to play the ball in the box, but referee Ricardo Salazar decided that wasn’t the case. “I thought they were gonna give the penalty and just issue a yellow card. We’ll have to ask Ricardo what exactly the rules are, I guess I’ll do some digging myself and see if he missed one or I interpreted the law of what they told us in preseason.”
But when asked if he regretted his decision to make that tackle on Darlington Nagbe, Evans said he felt fully correct in his decision based on his interpretation of the new rule. “It’s either I don’t make a play and he scores and everybody asks why I didn’t make a play on the ball or you make a play on the ball and live with the consequences. Unfortunately it gave up the pen, and he thought it was egregious enough in the penalty box to warrant a red.” Evans acknowledged that the same tackle would most likely be a red card if it had occurred outside the box; he only went for it because he understood it to fall under that new rule.
Apparently referee Salazar didn’t talk with Evans about the decision at all on the pitch, only referring to his assistant before issuing the red card. Evans said Salazar has “always been trigger happy...on me especially.” The Sounders and Salazar don’t exactly have the best history together and his tendency to make game-changing calls is well-documented.
Ever the professional, Evans didn’t make too much of a big deal about the decision on the pitch, and immediately took the blame when his teammates joined him in the locker room at full time. “After the game I put my hand up and they said ‘don’t worry about it.’” He praised his team’s early dominance of the game, and their later regrouping in the second half that earned them a hard-fought point in the dying minutes. “The guys regrouped at halftime, the message was clear from the players to each other—that this is a game we could get a point out of or even snag three points. That carried onto the field.”
Various circumstances made it difficult for Evans to watch the rest of the match from the locker room, and he resigned himself to watching the stream on his phone—the same stream many fans were also watching. “I was just laying on the ground, icing my back and hamstring, watching the game.”
Providence Park’s abundance of thick concrete walls made it hard for even the raucous Timbers atmosphere to make it into the locker room, so at first the 45-second delay Evans was experiencing on his stream didn’t seem like a big deal. But when Clint Dempsey scored his injury time equalizer, Evans’ wife spoiled the surprise with a text message. “I saw a “yeah!’ and I knew it had to be a goal or one of their players was sent off, something like that, that’s the only reason she would text me like that.”
Evans noted that a Timbers employee was bringing him food every ten minutes or so; the Sounders player had the joy of showing him a replay of the match’s epic finish. “Had to show him the goal because he’s not able to watch the game either, so he comes in and I was like ‘you gotta watch this.’ He was pretty pissed.”