By Casey Ward

Although television replays proved inconclusive, I am willing to give the Crew players the benefit of the doubt and conclude that FC Dallas midfielder Eric Avila handled the ball outside of the box before taking it down and scoring the equalizer on what was, for all intensive purposes, the last kick of the game.  I am further willing to agree that the referee should have blown his whistle, which he ambivalently had between his lips, to end the match before the consequential Dallas freekick was taken.  And I will again side with Columbus players in feeling generally aggrieved about Atiba Harris’ wayward elbows, one of which split Eddie Gaven’s lip so severely that he was forced to leave the game.  As a committed and apologetic fan, I must support my team in these moments, even against my better judgment.  In an increasingly globalized world, it seems that fandom, not patriotism, is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

That said, what the hell was Emilio Renteria doing when he unsuccessfully tried to cut inside a defender instead of dribbling the ball into the corner?  What in god’s name was running through Emmanuel Ekpo’s mind when he bundled over Avila twenty yards from goal two minutes into stoppage time? And what was Guillermo Barros Schelotto thinking when he turned and pled with referee Jason Anno to penalize Avila for a handball, thereby allowing the midfielder an uncontested shot on goal?

Most inexplicable of all, Danny O’Rourke earned a red card immediately after the goal for “abusive language.”  Unless the obscenities were lobbed at the aforementioned Crew players, as well as the referee, I cannot see how O’Rourke’s belligerence was justified.  The prevalence of this type of on-field whining was, at least for once, not matched by its permissiveness.  If more referees take a firmer stance, issuing yellow cards for any back-talk, including but not limited to intimidation and verbal and non-verbal pleas for yellow cards, that does not come from the team’s captain, then fans such as myself won’t have to witness their team redirect its energies from trying to win games to trying to win petty arguments.  Besides, that’s my job.

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