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Sounders win Cristian Roldan red card appeal

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Ted Unkel says he determined Roldan “deliberately” slapped Eduard Atuesta, while Roldan insists it was accidental.

UPDATE (Wednesday): Cristian Roldan will be available for Saturday’s game at Minnesota United after the Sounders successfully appealed his red card.

UPDATE (Tuesday): The Sounders are appealing the red card, GM Garth Lagerwey told KJR on Tuesday.

“What we’re appealing on is his intent,” Lagerwey said. “We’ve submitted a number of materials that we believe shows the action was not deliberate and that’s what the panel is going to decide upon.”

SEATTLE — Over the course of his adult life, Cristian Roldan had only been red-carded once. It came in a college game when he won a header but his opponent was hurt on the play. The red card was ultimately rescinded.

Roldan’s second red card came on Sunday. There’s at least a small chance that it will be rescinded as well.

The Sounders gave indications that they at least considering an appeal of Ted Unkel’s decision to eject Roldan in the 18th minute after Roldan was deemed to have “deliberately” slapped Eduard Atuesta in the face during a scuffle.

The basis of the appeal will almost certainly hinge on whether or not Roldan’s move meant to hit Atuesta. Reporters were permitted to ask Unkel two questions about the decision. Both answers made clear that perceived intent was paramount in the decision-making process.

Question: What were the factors considered when the decision was made to issue a red card to Cristian Roldan?

Answer: “The deliberate strike of his opponent to the face with a force that was more than negligible.”

Question: Was the potential incidental nature of the contact considered?

Answer: “It was considered, and it was deemed deliberate.”

Unkel’s first answer is almost right out of the rulebook, which states: “a player who, when not challenging for the ball, deliberately strikes an opponent or any other person on the head or face with the hand or arm, is guilty of violent conduct unless the force used was negligible.”

If the review committee determines that Roldan did not deliberately strike Atuesta, they’d be within their rights to reinstate him for Saturday’s game at Minnesota United.

Roldan, for his part, was adamant that he did not mean to strike Atuesta.

“Well, I don’t want to go too far, but it’s a big game, it’s a huge game,” Roldan said. “There’s contact, there’s issues going on throughout the field. I do think that you have to treat it as a big game. From what I saw, I make a good tackle, the ball goes out of bounds, I’m rushed by Kaye, I get pushed, I defend myself and push him back, I get pushed again from another guy [Atuesta], my hands go up in the air, completely accidental.

“Look, I’m not a guy that puts his hands up pretty often. I’m a guy that plays as honest as I can. I’m not here to disagree, but to be honest it was not deliberate. That’s really the whole message behind this. It’s a huge game and I never want to hurt my team in any way and the fact that it may have looked like it was deliberate, I’m getting pushed and my hands go up. There’s contact to the face, there’s a little bit of embellishment, but like I said, it’s a huge game and I think it should be treated like that.”

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was similarly effusive in his defense of Roldan’s intentions.

“I’m telling you I know Cristian better than Ted Unkel,” Schmetzer said after being informed of the referee’s explanation. “Cristian did not deliberately ... you guys can all look at the film and everybody will see what they see. I’m not going to get into an argument with any of the referees, but I know Cristian. Cristian did not do that on purpose. He’s not that kind of player.”