Controversy in Earthquakes 4-0 loss to Salt Lake

July 24, 2011, 5:29 am
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Until the hour mark of their game at Real Salt Lake, the Earthquakes were holding on. Salt Lakewas able to maintain possession comfortably and create chances, but couldntput one past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch. Thirty minutes later, the scorewas 4-0 and the Earthquakes were sent home with their heaviest defeat of the2011 season. The scoreline would reflect a late game collapse from San Jose, but to most observers in the San Jose camp, the game hinged on one moment. The home side finally got their breakthrough just after thegame clock hit one hour, but the controversial circumstances of the goal andEarthquakes defender Bobby Burlings sending off just prior has already broughtplenty of criticism from the Earthquakes and will leave fans talking for daysto come. In the incident, Real Salt LakesAlvaro Saborio went to the ground in the penalty area, apparently under contactfrom Burling. Referee David Gantar had no hesitation in showing Burling the redcard for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity and awarding Salt Lake apenalty, but replays soon showed that no Earthquakes defender had made anycontact with Saborio, who appeared to take a dive, and the incredulousreactions from the Earthquakes players seemed to confirm what fans watching ontelevision saw in the replays. I didnt touch Saboro. I thought it was going to be apossible yellow card for a dive if anything, Burling said. One-hundred percent Burling didnt touch Saborio. Heabsolutely did not touch him, I was standing right there, Earthquakesgoalkeeper Jon Busch said. The guy could have shot before he went down if hewanted to. He cut back against two defenders, neither Bobby (Burling) or Brad(Ring) touched him at all, whatsoever. Gantar had initially shown the red card to Brad Ring, whowas a few feet away from Saborio during the play, but after a conversation withthe assistant referee, gave the card to Burling, instead. Saborio would go onto convert the penalty, which put Salt Lake up 1-0 andeventually stood as the winning goal. Ring, naturally a central midfielder, had already beendeputizing as a central defender following his substitution for Nana Attakora,who made his Earthquakes debut. Following the ejection, Ring had to partner inthe middle with another out of position player, Chris Leitch, and Salt Laketook advantage, putting three more goals past Busch and the Earthquakes enroute to a comfortable 4-0 win. Despite the seemingly comfortable scoreline, though, theEarthquakes players were adamant that the red card and penalty changed thecomplexion of the game. Busch said, It changed the whole game. Up until thatpoint we were playing a pretty good road game against a very good team. Its up to the referee to make sure it is a penalty kickand that changed the game, Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop said. Redcard, penalty, goal and we were screwed after that. Yallops opposite number, Jason Kreis, was naturally in amore diplomatic mood in the game, implicitly acknowledging that his team mighthave benefited from a refereeing call. However, his team had been the victim ofa similar dive by D.C. United forward Charlie Davies in the two teams June 18showdown, with the ensuing penalty forcing Salt Laketo settle for a tie instead of a win. You hope that over the course of a season some bounces aregoing to go your way and some decisions are going to go your way, and sotonight was one, Kreis said.As a consequence, the MLS Disciplinary Committeesubsequently fined Davies 1,000 by for putting the game in disrepute. Following the game, a number of Earthquakes players voicedtheir displeasure at the standard of refereeing and Saborios actions, not onlyto reporters in the locker room, but also on Twitter. Divingruins the game..Has to be punished harshly..the only way to get rid of it issuspending guys..4 such a good player it's a disgrace, Earthquakes midfielderJacob Peterson tweeted. Peterson was among the players booked, having beenshown a yellow card in the 15th minute for delaying a restart.Earthquakesforward Chris Wondolowski also weighed in on Twitter, calling the penalty andred card call the wrong one, saying Crazy how 1 call can help decide a gameand with it not even bein the right call. So frustrating. TheEarthquakes will now have to do without Burling, who will be suspended, andpossibly more players as they face D.C. United next Saturday, kicking off athree game home stand that could be vital to the teams playoff chances. Buschwas seen making a vulgar gesture to the referee following the penalty kick andcould face disciplinary action, while defender Jason Hernandez was injured priorto the game, potentially leaving the Earthquakes back line perilously thin asthey attempt to snap a seven game winless streak.Formore Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, follow Nick Rosano on Twitter:@nicholasrosano