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Will Johnson’s post-game red card puts pressure on road-bound Timbers

Will Johnson Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Godofredo Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports


PORTLAND, Ore. — The match was over. The Portland Timbers secured their one point against the Vancouver Whitecaps and players should’ve been looking ahead to an important match in Dallas next week.

But moments after the whistle, captain Will Johnson apparently wasn’t ready to move on just yet. He immediately went over to referee Juan Guzman to complain about an earlier call, and Guzman didn’t hesitate in pulling out a yellow card and then quickly a red one.

Guzman said afterward that Johnson “was sent off for using offensive, abusive and insulting language toward the referee.” A replay of the incident shows Johnson didn’t say anything to Guzman after the yellow was issued. The official card summary lists the reasons as “unsporting behavior” for the yellow and “fighting” for the red. (Update: The card summary was adjusted to list Johnson’s yellow as being for “dissent” and his red for “foul language.”)

As a result of the cards, Johnson will miss next week’s away game against FC Dallas, a match that could determine if the Timbers move into first place of the Western Conference, depending on other results in the conference.

Johnson left the locker room Saturday before reporters arrived to speak to players, but Coach Caleb Porter speculated Johnson’s complaints might’ve been related to a foul committed against Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri earlier.

“I think (Johnson) was talking to the ref about a couple plays at the end of the game and the ref didn’t like what he said,” Porter said.

“It’s tough. You don’t usually see that,” Porter added. “A lot of times guys are frustrated at the end of a game and you rarely see a ref red card a guy for saying something.”

The match was a physical one, especially in the second half as the score remained deadlocked at 1-1. Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey was given a red in stoppage time for a late, from-behind tackle. Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell said talking to the referee did little to help matters.

“Walk away,” he said when asked how he deals with a physical game like Saturday’s at Providence Park. “You can’t speak to the referee — he doesn’t want to speak to anyone. Some referees don’t want to talk to the players so you just have to walk away and ignore him like he ignores you.”

The loss of Johnson will surely be felt as the Timbers travel to Dallas next weekend. Johnson played an active role in Saturday’s draw to the Whitecaps, nearly putting the Timbers ahead after 15 minutes with a blast that went just inches wide. FC Dallas currently top the Western Conference.

“It’s a draw — it was probably fair — so now we have to go and win on the road and get points there,” Porter said. “We’ve been winning at home and maybe because of that we haven’t been getting points on the road. We didn’t get three points here, so now we need to get points on the road.”

The Timbers are unbeaten at home in their last seven matches. They’ve lost just one home game in their last 15 home games stretching back to last year. In 10 away games this season, the Timbers have won just three and tied one.

With all of the Western Conference’s teams that are in playoff position sitting within three points of each other, the Timbers’ two-game road set in Dallas and then San Jose will be all the more pivotal.

“The road is where good teams become great teams,” said defender Nat Borchers. “That’s what separates teams from making the playoffs or not making the playoffs. We’ve got to find a way to get points on the road, to grind results out and manage games.”


    • Agreed. Sucks it happened to Johnson, but I am happy to see MLS ref finally standing up to the players. Most games players run the show. Hopefully MLS will stand up for it’s refs.

  1. Wait, I thought Dempsey was public enemy number one for his temper tantrum about the refs? (Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children.) Now a few calls go against the Timbers and suddenly the shoe is on the other foot. I’m not saying Johnson was wrong for being pissed. That game looked ridiculous. But can we please leave the partisanship behind when it comes to the refs. Each and every MLS fan is being robbed every week by the poor quality of the refs. I hate the Timbers, but we should all agree that we have a common enemy in the guys in yellow. (And if you disagree please note your team. Within a month I’ll check back because you will have been screwed six ways from Sunday by a bad call in that time.)

    BTW, it was a deserved red card for Harvey’s scissor kick on Valeri. That said, Valeri flopped around more that Steve Zakuani did when Brian Mullan actually snapped his leg in half. The Argentinians In Portland flop so much that they are giving the rest of the South Americans in MLS a bad name.

  2. So what if Will Johnson not so politely told the referee he stunk and Vancouver had intent to injure?
    Preseason game the Whitecaps cause a season ending injury to Timbers Ben Zemanski. Not an oh that was an awkward foot plant torsion ACL but a hard reckless 50/50 dangerous tackle. Similar to the red on Valeri. Then shortly after multiple constant infringements occur and no call?
    Folks can say Timbers bring these fouls onto themselves because of their possession with a purpose style but isn’t that considered quality soccer everywhere else?
    MLS is a run at the ball , hack, grab, kick, and body slam to win the ball. Immediate counter with balls played into space. No wonder winning teams are border line high 40% to low 50% in possession.

  3. Looks like the ref got his feelings hurt and decided the yellow wasn’t enough. Replay doesn’t look good for the ref. Let’s see if MLS reviews it

  4. That replay doesn’t show him not saying something the entire time. It shows his face being blocked by a player, and then the referee blowing his whistle and reacting to watch was said.

    I get that it’s fun to hate referees and also good to stir things up to create page views. Maybe at least watch the video though, and see where it was possible for him to say something.

  5. I’m a Cascadia guy but…
    Between Johnson’s constant hyper-aggressive persona and Dempsey’s shredding of the secret document, the Cascadia rivalry stuff gets a little over the top sometimes.

    The tifo stuff is all good but the players need to cool down the bitching.


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