Americanizing Soccer for the U.S. Sports Fan pt. 3
The recent match between the U.S. and Cuba battling for a spot to the 2010 World Cup was a prime example of why soccer must revise its rule involving red-cards. Expulsion from the game for a heinous foul is not the problem. If the foul warrants expulsion, the referee should make the call. What happens after the player is dismissed from the game is not what U.S. sports fans want to see from professional soccer.
U.S. sports fans expect the player to be fined and suspended for more games. But, for the game being played at that moment, sports fans want to see another player take the suspended player’s place on the field. There is too much invested in the game for it to become a laughing affair, as the match last night did.
Soccer purists, of course, will disagree, and they will try to cite the occasions when the team down a player was able to come back and either win or tie the game. But, this occurs infrequently.
The problem is that the rule is set up to punish not just the player and his/her team, but, also the fans.
It was big, bad U.S. vs. small, socialist Cuba. The match-up was an attractive one. The drama was both surreal and potent. The outcome was unpredictable.
The score was 2-1 late in the first half when the referee made the debatable and controversial call. The remainder of the game was played with 11 players vs. 10 players. The final score was 6-1.
As professional soccer develops in the U.S., it must revise the red-card rule to reflect the best interests of sports fans. U.S. sports fans will not tolerate watching deliberate mismatches. It is not fair to penalize the fan. The ultimate competition is an even match among players, eleven on eleven.
As the economy weakens, U.S. professional soccer must consider all peripheral factors that influence how sports fans see the beautiful game. After having planned a day at the stadium, and having paid for gas, parking, tickets and refreshments, fans would rather see a fair outcome, even when the advantage of the expulsion is in favor of the home team and goes against the opposition. The same can be said for fans watching on television.
No one wants to see an expulsion because it changes the complexion of the game. Whether it is 10 minutes after the start, or with 10 minutes remaining to be played, a red-card ruins the synergy that is created from the beauty of the game. An expulsion sucks the energy from the fan and diminishes the result.
In many instances when the red-card comes out, it is a questionable call. By revising the rule, professional soccer in the U.S. alleviates the possibility of the red-card being a major issue (There can always be controversy surrounding the expulsion of a particular player who may never re-enter the game). But, from a fan’s perspective, minimally speaking, at least it can always remain eleven players vs. eleven players. If the player that committed the foul is, upon further review, after completion of the game, deemed to have not made such a severe penalty, then his/her suspension and fine should be reversed.