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Yellow card peril: yet another reason to avoid the dreaded 4th-vs.-5th MLS elimination match

Nov 1, 2012, 10:16 AM EDT

Tally Hall

As the playoffs move forward, clubs and their fans will develop a deeper understanding of why it is so dreadfully important to finish first, second or third … and to avoid those final two conference playoff seedings at all costs.

Chicago knows today, for instance, the cost of that poor finishing in its regular season finale, the 1-1 draw at home with D.C. United. Rather than finishing in a higher spot, afforded the luxury of a sit-and-wait for a weekend match, the Fire had to play in last night’s single-game knockout round. And came the knockout.

(MORE: analysis of last night’s match in Chicago)

So the Fire is done.

For Houston, the news is better … but the Dynamo are hardly on the bullet train toward MLS Cup success and downtown parades and such. They get just three full days of rest before facing Eastern champion Kansas City in the first of a two-leg series. One of those days (today) will be largely eaten up with travel.

And here’s a big reason why this extra match begins to sting, one that doesn’t get as much attention:

Yellow cards have a tendency to mount.

Critical midfielder Brad Davis and goalkeeper Tally Hall collected cautions last night, and both deserved, it should be said. (At one point, Hall held a gathered ball for every bit of15 seconds; if this had been a women’s Olympic game, we would have seen the rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area for Chicago.)

Referee Baldomero Toledo managed the contest well, nit-picking on some little things early and whistling for all the fouls early, a trusty way of quickly establishing the correct tone, and yet a method that too many referees simply cannot get figured out. The result was a match that finished with just two yellow cards, quite acceptable by MLS standards.

But … Hall and Davis are now on notice. If they are cautioned once more they will miss the following playoff contest. (Unless it happens in the second leg of a conference final; in that case, they would not miss the MLS Cup final.)

Hall was excellent last night, just as he was in the Dynamo’s 2011 playoff run. Davis is Davis, a man who greatly assists the Dynamo midfield possession and scares the pooh out of teams with those deadeye set piece deliveries.

  1. dfstell - Nov 1, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    That’s good point. I hadn’t thought of this wrinkle. It is one more game to accumulate yellows.

  2. term3186 - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Ehhhhhh. I’m going to have to disagree with the Brad Davis yellow. Was it objectively yellow? Sure. But not by the standards the referee established that night. Before Brad’s yellow the same (I think) Chicago defender hits a Dynamo player (Carr?) with a very late sliding challenge near midfield, somehow avoiding a caution, and then elbows Brad in the face near the Chicago 18 a few minutes later, AGAIN somehow avoiding a caution. As for Tally’s yellow, I think it came on a free kick for offside that he wasn’t even taking…. but it was hard to tell since the camera operator had an infuriating habit of showing close up shots of players not involved in the play while the game was ongoing.

  3. Steve Davis - Nov 1, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    Davis? You could perhaps quibble with that one. But Davis had one other tough foul that I remember. And when you grab an attacker from behind, over the shoulder, you are certainly giving the referee a lot of cause to reach into the pocket. But, as I said, it was close.

    Hall? Nah. He should know better. I put it down to a relative lack of big-game experience. He has to better assess the situation. He has to understand that he’s on the road, that the crowd is getting on him (it was), and that he was repeatedly wasting time.

    He’ll be fine … so long as he doesn’t do the same thing. He just has to be hyper-aware over the next two or three matches.

    • wesbadia - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      Lack of big-game experience for Hall would be right. As was evidenced by his very late-game distribution where he threw the ball out to his right instead of punting the ball as far down field as possible to run out the clock. As soon as I saw him wheel back to throw, I yelled at the screen “What the hell are you doing?!” Fortunately, Taylor Twellman vindicated me when he called Hall out five seconds after I screamed my rant.

      Hall is great between the posts, proving himself to be a big shot stopper and making good decisions at split seconds. But when it comes to things like distribution, macro-level decisions, and choosing which battles to fight in-game, I think he leaves much to be desired.

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