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Let’s visit quickly about Nat Borchers’ red card for RSL

Aug 1, 2012, 1:20 PM EDT

FC Dallas v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

Real Salt Lake’s important center back was red carded in the 58th minute last night, reducing his team’s chances of rallying from a 1-0 deficit in their CONCACAF Champions League loss to Costa Rica’s Herediano.

This is where inferior, overly lenient quality of MLS refereeing hurts players from the league.

Borchers and some RSL backers thought the red card was soft. And perhaps it was – but here comes the caveat – by MLS standards.

Yes, Borchers probably gets away with that in MLS, where officials still too happily avert their eyes at overly physical and reckless challenges. It’s getting better, but it isn’t there yet.

(MORE: Why RSL need not panic over last night’s CCL loss.)

So MLS players instincts and tendencies are trained one way while the international game is often called another way. You can judge for yourself, but when I saw it full speed, saw Borchers lunge in with his cleats up, I thought, “Uh-oh!”

At the very least, even RSL backers must permit this: on the road, at a place on the field where Borchers absolutely didn’t need to be so aggressive, it was a mistake to give the referee an opportunity to make a game-changing call.

That’s what I say; you make up your own mind. Here are last night’s highlights, which include three quality stops from RSL goalkeeper Nick RImando, plus some opportunities that RSL simply must convert if they want to be CONCACAF big dogs.


  1. sluggo271 - Aug 1, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Red all the way. Don’ t mean to harp but that is red.

    • jamezyjamez - Aug 1, 2012 at 2:31 PM

      Agreed – that’s an easy one.

      At least this never happens to us during big FIFA tournaments…oh wait.

      Thanks USSF and MLS for bringing that Amercan hard-working, gritty style to our league!

      At least the MLS officiating style makes games higher-quality, more attractive and watchable…oh wait.

      Seriously though, we’ve stamped out diving and simulation by replacing it with actual violent fouls and injuries. YAY!

  2. ricecloudnine - Aug 1, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Definitely a red.

    I also think the phrase you used of “give the referee an opportunity to make a game-changing call” is an important one for players to keep in mind in general while playing, but especially in CONCACAF play.

  3. upinslc - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    In what way was that a red? His studs are down, he makes BARELY any contact with the opposing player (who roles around like his leg was taken off by a grenade), and actually tries to avoid hitting him when he slides in. Just another poor reffing decision from a Concacaf ref, what else is new.

    • ricecloudnine - Aug 2, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      1) In what dream world are you living that you think the studs are down in that tackle? (I’m assuming Salt Lake from your login) The bottom of the cleat is clearly showing in the video (at 1:30 most clearly).

      2) The tackle was with with excessive force. That is the definition of a red card foul

      3) Not making contact (or barely making contact) does not absolve you of a foul. The actual wordings of the fouls are “Kicking or attempting to kick an opponent”, “tripping or attempting to trip an opponent”… In fact Borchers probably is lucky not to have made clean contact as it would have resulted in a potentially serious ankle injury for the opponent with that type of tackle.

  4. joeyt360 - Aug 1, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    I wish that was consistently called a red. That tackle has no place in the game, and players really know it. So late to the ball it’s not credible to believe he was playing for it, and cleat comes right down on ankle.

  5. wesbadia - Aug 2, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    Borchers admitted that it was clumsy and that he should’ve never left his feet in this situation during his post-game interview. He also said his heavy touch caused this to happen. To me, there’s two things that need to be thought about here.

    1) The technical ability of run-of-the-mill MLS players needs to improve. Had Borchers not taken such a heavy initial touch on the ball, he would never have even put himself in a situation to have to make a desperate tackle to maintain possession. And this is difficult for me to understand, because Kreis’ system is built on technical proficiency in order for RSL to maintain possession.

    2) ALL MLS teams need to realize where and who they’re playing. This is Latin America — a region known for their players diving consistently, a place where refs (from any competition) have been known to hand out tough punishment to American teams, and a place that is notoriously difficult to play in/against because of the quality and difference of play compared to MLS.

    Even if it WAS red card worthy (which I don’t think it was), Borcher, RSL, and all other MLS teams need to realize what we’re going up against when traveling and/or playing in a competition like this one. To put yourself in a position to have to make this tackle is worse than actually making the tackle. Had Borchers NOT taken the tackle, Aguilar could’ve had a very decent run at goal (and potentially had scored like he did in the first half) and Nat would’ve been chastised for not doing enough to prevent it. Clean up the technical proficiency, avoid bad tackles.

    I also find it rather hilarious that the same people that call out MLS refs for their over-zealous cards (ie, drawing attention to certain refs during a game for having given out some extremely high card count over the course of too few games), are now saying that this is a red in any league anywhere. The problem in MLS isn’t the lack of punishment for dangerous challenges, it’s the INCONSISTENCY of officiating. No two refs in MLS will call the same challenge the same on a consistent basis. Toledo could’ve given a straight red, while Kennedy would’ve given maybe a yellow, and Stott would’ve left it go completely. This is the biggest difference between our officiating and the world’s.

    Easy fix: get EVERYONE involved in officiating (including the dreaded Disciplinary Committee) on the same page. The very fact that a Disciplinary Committee is needed in our league is proof that we’re too inconsistent and/or inept at calling games. Players do not know what to expect from game to game if all refs have minds of their own. As essential law enforcement agents, refs needs to, above all, be consistent in every call they make and with each other. Fix this and we’ll surely see an improvement in international competitions.

    • sluggo271 - Aug 2, 2012 at 12:51 PM

      In the OPINION of the referee….

      • wesbadia - Aug 2, 2012 at 2:59 PM

        It’s my understanding that MLS is not in the business of hiring their referees based on some kind of “diversity in opinion” affirmative action plan. Meaning that if MLS was at all concerned in providing a consistently high-quality on-field product in terms of officiating its matches that it’d start being selective in what kinds of personalities and opinions they put on the field. Standardizing the “OPINIONS” of referees is what I’m proposing. THAT fix comes from off the field. The OPINION you’re referring to comes in the heat of the moment from a narrow, obscured angle to witness the play at hand. The trick is bringing what happens on the field closer to what is talked about off the field. Theory and practice. We’re talking about the league changing the opinions of the referees in order to maintain a quality product in our league.

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