July 29, 2011MLSSCOREBOARD EARTHQUAKESPAGE
SAN JOSE The story has been hashed over time and again by fans and media in the Bay Area and around the country alike. For 60 minutes last Saturday, the Earthquakes had stymied the best team in the league in Real Salt Lake, only to be undone by a dive, red card and penalty goal in a matter of minutes. The frustration boiled over, and soon the Earthquakes were heading home with their heaviest defeat of the season.
The emotion of the situation was visibly captured on television with goalkeeper Jon Busch making a hand gesture and vulgar expression in the direction of Saborio, not to mention the loss of composure that saw the home side put three more goals past a San Jose defense bereft of any more natural central defenders. After the game, Busch was involved in a verbal confrontation with Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis, who had to be restrained as he attempted to chase Busch down the tunnel.
RECAP: Controversy in Earthquakes 4-0 loss to Salt Lake
In the aftermath of this emotionally charged encounter, however, a group of fans is taking a unique course of action in reaction to Saturdays events, looking to parlay the collapse and frustration with officiating into a show of support for the players. The Casbah, the Earthquakes oldest supporters group, has announced a fundraiser to pay the fines that could possibly be accrued by the team for any of the incidents during and after Saturday nights game.
Our goal is to raise enough money to pay for the fines that the players will be receiving because of the refereeing or complaining about the referee post game, read a statement on The Casbahs official website.
In addition to accepting donations, The Casbah will be holding a fundraising raffle at the groups tailgate prior to the Earthquakes game against D.C. United on July 30 at 7:30 p.m. As of noon PDT on Friday, no fines or suspensions had been announced, but they are expected later in the day.
The Casbahs Donald Rickard, who is organizing the event, said the idea for the event came about after an exchange with Earthquakes blogger Robert Jonas, who joked that the Earthquakes would need a fundraiser to pay for the fines that the Earthquakes would likely receive after Saturdays game.
In addition to the incidents on the field and immediately following the game, a number of Earthquakes players expressed their displeasure with the officiating, both to the media in post-game interviews and via their Twitter accounts, and Rickard agreed.
The only thing that I can say about the refs from Saturday were that they were consistent, consistently bad, Rickard said. They made the wrong call against both teams throughout the game.
However, instead of simply venting, along with many Earthquakes fans and players, Rickard, who was in attendance at Salt Lakes Rio Tinto Stadium, took the idea of a fundraiser and ran with it, though wasnt sure what to expect.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that this would actually become a rallying point for Quakes fans, Rickard said in an email.
At the end of the evening on July 28, though, The Casbah had already raised 500 for any possible fines, according to the groups Twitter account, even prior to the announcement of any sanctions by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
The move is seemingly unprecedented in MLS history, and while fans have rallied to support players for various reasons, most notably a fundraiser for former Earthquake Joe Vide diagnosed in 2010 with lymphoma it has been difficult to find any cases of fans fundraising to help out with players fines in a similar circumstance.
The Casbah is just trying to rally our fans behind the team and show them that we are there for them as we make the final push towards the playoffs, Rickard said.
Fines in MLS are normally donated to MLS W.O.R.K.S., the leagues community outreach program, and The Casbah and Rickard have said that should the league not accept the funds raised as payment, the money raised will be donated to local Bay Area charities in the players names. Rickard said that he had been in contact with the Earthquakes front office and that the team was looking into the possibility of paying the fines via this fundraiser, but as of writing, the league has given no indication whether or not this would be possible.
The players involved were happy to see the fans stepping up and supporting them in though acknowledged that they would still likely have to step up and face the music when it comes to any possible sanction handed down by MLS.
That would be kind of cool actually, said Busch, when informed of the fundraiser. We have to wait and see what the league does. I'll deal with it. It's what I did, you move on.
Burling, who could face a fine for his red card despite the fact he was seemingly the victim of a con by Saborio, said he was overwhelmed by the support he had been getting some fans following Saturdays game.
It's over the top, it makes me feel very appreciative for the fans that do that, Burling said. I'm really overwhelmed with the support I've been getting and the help from all the fans, it's been great.
While the fundraiser aims in part to address the consequences of Saturdays officiating, Rickard also acknowledged that there is plenty to do for the organizations who train and control the referees, not only MLS, but also the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and Canadian Soccer Association (CSA). One particular sticking point, is that while the league can retroactively sanction players for their actions, which it has done for similar incidents in the past, it cannot rescind a red card, except in a case of mistaken identity.
My other issue is that MLS will go back and suspend or fine a player for a harsh tackle or a dive after the game but they will not go and rescind a red card that was not deserved, Rickard explained. This is not right. We would not be having this fundraiser and this embarrassment with the league if they would just change their policy and question refs.
Any change in MLS policy would likely take some to effect, so while the fundraiser may not have any immediate impact on how the league conducts its disciplinary proceedings, the fact that the fans have organized in support of their players indicates they could be ready to address the leagues policies in a more direct way.
For more information on the fundraiser, visit The Casbahs official website.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter.