Schmid Returns to Old Theme of Blaming Will Johnson
by Steve Clare, Editor Prost Amerika Soccer
Following last night’s defeat in Portland, Sigi Schmid was not quite apologetic for the behaviour of his own players whose discipline seemed to dissipate in the 74th minute.
Following a clear elbow by Osvaldo Alonso on Portland captain Will Johnson, seen by a nationwide tv audience in numerous replays, Schmid was quick to make sure the blame was shared with the victim.
“I couldn’t see exactly. The linesman said that Ossie [Alonso] caught him with an elbow or threw an elbow in his face. And all I can tell you is, whenever things happen, Will Johnson always seems to be at the other end of things.
I don’t know what he says or what he does to instigate things, but obviously Ossie has to control his behavior, but sometimes it’s tough in the heat of the battle to do that but he needs to do better. He’s a veteran player, he needs to do better.”
It is not Schmid’s first attempt to blame the Canadian for assaults on him.
In a teleconference on May 31st, Schmid was talking about a ban issued to Sounders midfielder Shalrie Joseph for a tackle on LA Galaxy’s Marcelo Sarvas. The MLS Disciplinary Committee had added an extra game to the automatic one game ban for Joseph’s red card.
Schmid started off with an insinuation that, in certain instances, often the victim is partially to blame for such assaults because they provoke opponents.
” … the other side of the equation sometimes is – and taking nothing away from the incident and whether it should have been a red card or not; I’m not arguing that in any stretch of the imagination – but sometimes I think everybody – the league, everybody – has to look at certain players always seem to bear the brunt of these kinds of outbursts.”
In his defence, many other commentators on the game do agree that referees tend to punish a retaliating player more in some incidents.
Schmid then acted quickly to affirm that he did not believe Marcelo Sarvas was one of those players who provoked opponents, making his initial point even more baffling at the time.
He then cited Sounders defender Marc Burch’s homophobic slur on then Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson and noted that another player, whom he didn’t name but is San Jose’s Alan Gordon, had aimed a similar slur at the same player now captain of the Portland Timbers.
“I know earlier in the year there was a slur on Marc Burch and there was a slur earlier in the year, and ironically they were both directed at the same player.”
The implication was clear; that it was no coincidence that certain players are repeatedly on the same end of opponent misconduct and that the Burch slur on Johnson was such a case.
The incident was underreported as the Sounders media office wisely removed the answer from the teleconference quotes they sent out to media, perhaps leading to the conclusion they knew his comments were inappropriate.
There is no doubt that some players get their adrenalin by winding up opponents. There are a few in Schmid’s own side, notably Eddie Johnson and arguably Alonso himself, and no Earthquakes fan would deny that Steven Lenhart uses the tactic as a motivating technique. Dishing out verbals to opponents is part and parcel of the game and has been for decades.
However, to imply that an elbow in the face or a homophobic slur can be explained or defended by blaming the victim is unbelievably irresponsible in the current environment where MLS wants to promote respect and tolerance, and the MLS Disciplinary Committee was set up to deal with on field thuggery.
Schmid also wanted referees to protect Clint Dempsey more from tough tackles.
The Sounders Designated player fell awkwardly from a 12th minute tackle by Diego Chara and the shoulder injury he sustained caused him substantial discomfort throughout the game.
“The early foul on [Clint] Dempsey with [Diego] Chara fouls him, and he ends up with an AC joint sprain/dislocation that he tried to play on and play through it.
Chara commits I think four fouls in the first half and never gets carded; I think that was a key turning point in the game and obviously look at the time that Dempsey got fouled… that crap’s gotta stop.
Referees got to protect him and they don’t. It doesn’t matter if a foul is early in the game or late in the game. The first time we committed a hard foul was immediately a yellow card on [Adam] Moffat, so I think that set a tone for the game as well.”
The statistics tell us that Sounders outfouled Portland by 14 to 9 but Diego Chara did commit five of the nine, and three were on Clint Dempsey. Dempsey was fouled four times overall, three of which were in the first half.
Schmid also made a valid point that Adam Moffat was booked for the first hard foul in the 26th minute but omits to mention, it was the Scotsman’s third foul of the game and he could have received a card for persistent offending after three in less than half an hour. Chara however committed five and evaded sanction. Five fouls should get you a yellow.
Talented players should be protected by referees and Schmid has a good case in pointing this out, but to do so within seconds of claiming opposition players are contributing to attacks on them totally devalues his point.
Schmid was outdone though by Alonso’s ridiculous claim about the incident:
“I put my elbow up, but I never swing. The lineman told the referee I swing my elbow, but I said no, I didn’t do it. … I put my elbow up because he come to me talking to me. I put my elbow up.”
The embedded video below clearly shows Alonso doing much more than merely “putting his elbow up”.
Sounders fans can do one of two things at this point.
They can deny what is obvious to anybody watching the video and defend Alonso; or they can ask the tough questions about the side’s lack of discipline when a point and perhaps even a Supporters Shield were well within their grasp.
The breach of the mass confrontation rule of officials may lead to a further fine although it is unlikely that the Disciplinary Committee will add a second game to Alonso’s ban. The Cuban will miss the away match in FC Dallas, which still represents Sounders FC’s best chance of both finally nailing down that play-off place and reinvigorating their Supporters Shield challenge.
That game is on October 19th which gives the club five days to hopefully heal Dempsey’s wound and re-acclimate Brad Evans, whose organisational skills have been missed, into the side.
Even better news may come in the return of Eddie Johnson and Steve Zakuani looked very lively in his substitute appearance. He came inches away from securing an equaliser that frankly the Sounders deserved.
Fans have five days to wait and see which Sounders FC will appear in Dallas. With Zach Scott and Evans back, there may be a better balance between fireballs and calm temperaments, notwithstanding Scott’s recent penchant for committing bookable fouls.
There is still plenty to play for.
All Sounders FC have lost so far is one Cascadia Cup and their discipline, one of which they can still reclaim and save the season.