Carson, Calif. • Jeff Cassar walked by Scott Pierce and myself underneath StubHub Center, then turned back and said something to the extent of, “Wait until you see what I’m going to do.”
Real Salt Lake’s head coach waltzed by to put on the headset and speak to Brian Dunseth and Bill Riley for his standard post-match TV interview. This was about his club’s 1-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy Saturday night. At the end of the interview, Cassar took out an iPhone and pulled up what appeared to be a screenshot of a boot directly to the face of defender Chris Wingert. It was the 84th minute and Juninho’s cleat came up and caught Wingert in the face inside the box. Cassar was making a point. He thought a penalty should have been awarded.
Inside the locker room, Wingert walked by Pierce and I with a clear mark on-or-above his right eye, a clear indication of where he soccer cleat made connection with his face. The RSL defender was not happy. Can’t really blame him. It’s not every day a guy gets a high kick to the face in the box and isn’t given something in retrospect.
Also in the locker room was Nick Rimando and his swelling left eye. His yellow-card, penalty-kick-producing tackle on Marcelo Sarvas (Rimando stopped it) in the last minute of stoppage time — RSL fans are probably doing jumping jacks that it wasn’t a red card — resulted in Sarvas’ lower leg connecting with Rimando’s face. Afterward, Rimando said the force of the hit actually ruptured his ear drum.
It was an interesting night at StubHub. The nights here usually are.
Cassar didn’t seem all-too-pleased that the Galaxy scored the lone goal of the match while Javier Morales was down in pain in the 20th minute of play. Moreover, Cassar thought the advantage played by Silviu Petrescu should have been whistled for a free kick when RSL was dispossessed soon after.
“It was a referee giving us advantage and then the play breaks down,” Cassar said. “I’ll take a free kick 25 yards away from goal any time. Then he doesn’t go back and give the guy a yellow card — it clearly was a yellow card — I don’t know off the top of my head how many times Javi was fouled tonight, but it was a lot of times. And when did they get their first yellow card? Ninety-plus minute. That doesn’t work.”
Did the Galaxy breach the unwritten rule of soccer?
“The rule says that they don’t have to stop — they don’t,” Cassar added. “That is what it is. The ref gave an advantage at his discretion, he gave an advantage. Maybe it’s not always the right call.”
Still in second place in the West with 28 points, RSL remains fully in the playoff hunt, but the truth is wins — most of all, results — need to start happening more often than not. Colorado is right there with 27 points, while FC Dallas (26), Vancouver (25) and L.A. (24 with three games in hand of RSL) are nipping at the heels. Even Chivas USA is in the thick of it having won its fourth-straight match now with 24 points.
What will help turn things around? RSL has lost three of its last six league matches, yet maybe having four of the next five at home is a godsend to get back in the chase for Supporter’s Shield and the West against Seattle. Cassar said if RSL plays the way it did next Saturday against Vancouver the way it did against L.A., “We’re going to win.”
Rimando said the goal is to try and maximize points and results, as always.
“We just know that maybe we let one slip way today and that we’ve got to get some wins, you know? It’s not a must-win situation, but we’ve gotta improve on today, and if we improve on our performance today, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can get a result [next] weekend,” he said.
The club is officially into the second half of the season having played its 17th match of 34-slated regular-season matches. It turned into a 1-0 loss. Now 16 outings remain as the jockeying for postseason truly begins.
“The rest of the season is going to go really quickly,” Tony Beltran said. “We’ve got a lot of games in a row the next couple months and some important games at home, so we need to put points on the board so we’re right there at the end of the season.”
Beltran’s right. Fall will be here before you know it.