Ricardo Salazar, who worked the Sounders’ scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake tonight, had been the referee who made crucial calls that the Sounders believe cost them the 2012 U.S. Open Cup final at Kansas City in August.
He called a handball that led to Kansas City’s 1-0 lead in regulation. He waved off a save by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning in the PK shootout that gave the cup to Kansas City. There also was a 5-0 disparity in yellow cards in that game – including two on Patrick Ianni, which left the Sounders shorthanded over the final minutes of added time.
Then he became part of the story again tonight as the Sounders – playing shorthanded for the final hour – managed a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake.
“The thing is: Our fans know his name,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “If many fans know the name of the referee, I think that’s an indication. … It just seems that whenever something is 50-50, we don’t get the break with him.”
Schmid voiced no particular problem with the two yellow cards that sent defender Zach Scott from the game in the 30th minute.
But he was suspicious of a possible handball in the box that wasn’t called late in the first half. He was unhappy that RSL’s Chris Schuler received a yellow card rather than a red for dumping Fredy Montero as he seemed to break free on a run to the goal. And he was mystified that Salt Lake was allowed to take a corner kick after the allotted stoppage time had ticked away.
“I do have a problem when you put two minutes of extra time on, and they take the corner at two minutes and 30 seconds at the end of the game,” Schmid said. “So it’s like, OK, we’re going to give them another chance to score. I just thought we were hard done by the officiating all night in certain regards.”
Schmid also said, “Lord help us if we get Salazar in the playoffs.”
With that in mind, I asked general manager Adrian Hanauer if there is any way for a club to indicate that it would like to avoid having a particular referee assigned to its games.
“We have the ability in a very – obviously – delicate way at times that aren’t immediately following a game to try to enter into a rational dialogue with the league and PRO – which is the Professional Referee Organization, which the league runs,” he said. “I’m not at all happy that Salazar was assigned this game. The league was well-aware of my feelings after the Open Cup game. I think his decisions lost us the game in Kansas City, and I think his decisions tonight possibly took two points from us. I don’t know what it is, but I’m not comfortable. But ultimately the league watches all the game, and they insist on making assignments like they’ve made. We’ll have to live with it.”
I also asked if the club will communicate that they don’t want to see Salazar in the playoffs.
“I’m not going to go that far,” Hanauer said. “But I wasn’t happy with this assignment. What they do with that is up to them.”