Real Salt Lake feel a bit wronged for what happened in the 69th minute of their 3-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night. Even though the club has an opportunity to rectify the situation to a degree — turning over the loss obviously isn't an option — it is choosing to pass.
In the past, teams in MLS could only have red cards overturned in case of mistaken identity, but that is no longer the case. There is a new rule in place this season that allows teams to appeal red cards, but at a steep risk. Sources confirmed to SBI that to participate in the appeal process, teams have to post a $25,000 bond at the beginning of the season that they risk losing if their appeals are not successful. Even further, the player suspended risks having to miss an extra game if the play is not overturned. Those stipulations are in place for teams not to loosely challenge every decision that does not go their way.
Each team is permitted to challenge as many plays as they want in a given season, but two decisions that don't get overturned results in the club losing appeal privileges for the remainder of the current season. If any of those appeals is judged to be incredibly frivolous and unnecessary, a team loses the right to challenge for the current season and the following season. With those guidelines in place, RSL has elected to let Jamison Olave's controversial red card from Saturday go without a fight.
"It's not a super clear-cut incident," a spokesperson for RSL said. "Playing into that is that we have three games this week (including the San Jose one). You could make the reasonable assumption that Jamison probably would have rested anyway, because we have another game on Saturday."
The play in question happened when referee Elias Bazakos issued Olave a red card for appearing to deny Steven Lenhart an obvious goal-scoring opportunity midway through the second half of what was a 1-1 game at the time. Replays showed that Olave entered into a fair challenge with Lenhart for the ball until the San Jose forward positioned himself in front of Olave, grabbed the Colombian defender's shorts and pulled him into his body to make it appear like an egregious foul. Bazakos, trailing the play, did not have the luxury of replay and immediately sent Olave off for the foul, which reduced RSL to nine men for the final 21 minutes of the match.
Here is video of the Olave-Lenhart incident:
Another deterrent for clubs to appeal plays is that since the league's disciplinary committee reviews all plays anyway, there's potential for certain aspects of plays to be rectified retroactively without an appeal. In RSL's case, there is little incentive for the club to challenge Bazakos' ruling in hopes of sparing Olave the red card, especially with the potential taxes that come along with it. The disciplinary committee could look at the play and choose to take action on Lenhart or lessen Olave's punishment (i.e. rescind the fine) if it chooses to, as well.
No team tried to use the appeal system yet this season. Any potential appeal would be heard by a representative of U.S. Soccer, the Canadian Soccer Association and a member of PRO, the new referee organization created to improve the quality of refereeing in North America.
As for Lenhart, who has a bit of a reputation as an instigator, Saturday night was is not the first time he has coaxed referees into making a call that has swung a result in San Jose's direction this season.
He was able to draw an off-ball foul on Marc Burch in the box in Seattle on March 31 that gave San Jose a penalty kick that led to the only goal in the Earthquakes' 1-0 victory over the Sounders. His latest act involving Olave put San Jose in position to strike late against RSL, which they did twice in stoppage time to take another three points off a chief conference competitor.
With RSL not appealing the card, Olave will miss Wednesday's match against FC Dallas, pressing Chris Schuler into action. Fabian Espindola is also suspended for the match for his red card, which came on a two-footed, studs-up challenge to Sam Cronin, meaning that Paulo Jr. is a likely candidate to start up top alongside Alvaro Saborio.
What do you think of the new appeals process? Do you think RSL should appeal Olave's red? Do you think the league's referees have been undermined too much considering the new disciplinary committee rulings and this appeals process? What's your take on Lenhart as a player?
Share your thoughts below.