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The Third Yellow vs. An Inevitable Early Playoff Exit
Mark Anthony-Kaye's 45th minute red card should not be controversial in anyway but was a fitting final nail in the Revs' 2023 season.
I have a notification bar full of information and reactions about Mark Anthony-Kaye’s red card just before halftime.
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Here’s the replay:
I can not stress enough all of the relevant information regarding this play is as follows:
MAK is contesting Gazdag on the far sideline as the Union player attempts to control and possess an aerial ball.
During this challenge, Gazdag ends up on the ground and the ball falls behind both players, bouncing towards the sideline. No stoppage is whistled.
MAK locates the live ball and attempts to go over Gazdag to possess/make a play on the ball and after significant contact with his opponent MAK’s left foot steps on Gazdag’s chest.
That’s it, that’s the list. Every other piece of information is not relevant to the decision at hand.
I don’t care about any of the myriad of reasons in my timeline that the ball might be going out of bounds, that Gazdag raised his legs and fouled or impeded MAK or how Gazdag flopped and/or ended up on the ground. If this is a situation that MLS/FIFA or the IFAB think is occurring against the spirit of the laws the game, then they’ll have to modify the current interpretation but it happens so infrequently that implying Gazdag went to ground to get stepped on and draw a red card is borderline ridiculous.
This was not a robbery nor a proper use of the work number…though I do appreciate the running joke as I tried to get in my pre-work nap and keep tabs on the UConn Women trying to double up Dayton. In case anyone wanted to know what season it is in Connecticut this week.
There is a split second in the slow-mo replay when MAK I believe realizes the ball is behind him, he then turns and clearly locates the ball, and starts to move forward. In that same split second he fails to also realize that Gazdag is on his back almost directly underneath him. This will be important in like two seconds in real time.
At this point, nothing wrong has happened - whatever contact put Gazdag on the ground hasn’t been whistled for a foul nor do I think one is warranted. There’s not going to be a stoppage for embellishment either though I do think Gazdag is looking for a foul. At this point, all MAK has to do is find a clear path and play the ball which he might be able to do uncontested as there’s no other Union players besides Gazdag nearby…
Except he tries to go over a prone Gazdag that he probably doesn’t know is there and steps on him.
The decision from VAR and Drew Fischer is as academic as it is tragic, because the original call on the field was a common foul. Because right up until MAK moves towards that bouncing 50/50 ball he’s done nothing wrong.
But his fateful error was not locating Gazdag, because it is his responsibility at all times to conduct his play in a manner that is not careless, reckless, or endangers the safety of his opponents. Even the opponents he doesn’t know are on their back one foot away.
It’s the same logic that gets applied when someone starts to make a bad tackle and pull out if it…the die has been cast, the outcome is all but certain. Because once MAK started going towards the ball through Gazdag’s space that action is his and his alone and he is responsible for any result of beginning that action.
If MAK started to clearly move laterally around Gazdag - like all six foot prone of Gazdag, all the way around without initiating any contact - and got impeded in any way, then it’s likely any action Gazdag made from his position would be then under scrutiny of the referee as far as obstruction, etc. Also you can play a ball while on the ground, I grew up in AYSO where doing so was an immediate dangerous play, but so long as Gazdag does intentionally obstruct/cover the ball up and makes a legal play on the ball without fouling, he’s allowed to be down there.
Whatever Gazdag’s position is and how he got there, he and the general space above him are afforded the same protections as if here were standing and opponents are expected to not go through a player (or the space above him on aerial duals) when challenging for a ball. Yes it’s weird and uncommon to apply this logic to a vertical ground level play but it’s the same.
Fisher classifies this as violent conduct which I disagree with only in the sense that I think it’s serious foul play with the ball right there but it is merely semantics. At the end of the day MAK has gone through an opponent in an attempt to play a ball an did so in a way that put Gazdag at risk for serious injury and endangered his safety. It’s no different than a studs up sliding challenge except we’ve reversed the polarity of the play and put the opponent on a different axis
It doesn’t matter how Gazdag got on the ground, it doesn’t matter that it’s completely accidental from MAK - all that matters is that the step onto Gazdag’s chest occurred in the year of our soccer gods 2023 in the VAR era and there is only one course of action that can be taken by the referee.
I dearly appreciate everyone in my various mentions and social media platforms, and normally I do love interacting with you all but there’s nothing to debate here. Nor was there anything wrong with this drop ball but I went there too because I was curious and I had regrets after so we’re just going to get in extra naps between work this week.
Most times a red card like this is the result of blatant and clearly reckless actions. Others are merely a product of bad or overly aggressive decision-making that once started can’t be bailed out from. This play was neither, yet it is still held to the same high standard of player safety because it has to. There can’t be exceptions or extenuating circumstances for when VAR very clearly sees a foot in someone’s chest.
Mark Anthony-Kaye’s red card is another that is the product of an evolving game that has more cameras, eyes, and emphasis on player safety than ever before. More decisions and laws are being worded to reflect overall player safety and more players and referees are learning the game with a decision-making process and experience with this in mind.
Yes, that means even during a potential elimination MLS playoff game it is reasonable to expect today’s players to make sure all of their actions - even one as a simple as stepping forward - are done in a manner safe for all players.
I’m all for conversations about more yellows in the playoffs, more suspensions for hard fouls, and usually any and all insights about decisions and VAR reviews. But not this time.
There’s only one thing that can change this outcome and it’s Mark Anthony-Kaye needing to know, figure out, and/or see Daniel Gazdag is prone right in front of him and simply not go through his space or step on him. That might be an impossible standard to ask for in real time during a split second decision making process against all human and soccer player instinct, but it is the current standard we have and it usually results in the vast majority of games occurring in MLS without anyone getting stepped on.
I know everyone is angry, there’s a lot to be upset about on and off the field over the last few months. This isn’t one of them.