An early red card for Boston and another coaching change in New Jersey brought a colorful beginning to Week 18 in Women's Pro Soccer. These two random incidents caused a bit of commotion heading into these final weeks of the regular season, but the red card was by far more controversial.
Boston Breakers defender Alex Scott, slid into a late tackle with her studs up on the ankle of Washington Freedom midfielder Sonia Bompastor. Although the play occurred only six minutes in, there is no doubt that it definitely warranted a card. The question here is whether or not the foul was worth changing the dynamics of the game. Since it happened so early, many thought it was a little harsh to give a straight red. Here is the video. You be the judge:
Honestly, it's a bad tackle that Scott had to make after losing control on a heavy first touch. She could have tackled with a different surface, but in the heat of the moment, things sometimes happen. However, when these things happen, there are consequences. With playoff positions on the table and the loss of a major part of the team, clearly Breakers' Head Coach Tony DiCicco had something to say:
“It was foul. The cleats might have been up. Bompastor, who has a lot of sophistication, more sophistication than the referee, made it look worse than it was, and the referee made a bad decision.”
Then of course, a still agitated DiCicco had a few choice opinions to share as well:
"There was a star of the game today, and it wasn’t Abby Wambach, and it wasn’t my players sprinting around. It was the referee. He changed the whole game, and all he had to do was yellow card, fair enough. He has three options: speak firmly to the player, yellow card, and a red card is for something that is way over the top. I haven’t seen the film, but when [Freedom assistant coach] Clyde Watson says to me, 'I wouldn’t have called a red,' that tells me that the referee — let’s face it, the referees are learning in this league. Unfortunately, especially the international players, they’re just farther along than our referees. We’re losing Alex Scott for the next game, too. We’re playing on Saturday. So this call is far-reaching…He's over his head. Most of the referees in this league have been over their heads, and they can look the part and play the part but that is just a very, very difficult call in that stage in the game."
You have to commend the coach for defending his players, but he needs to remember that bad mouthing referees is always cause for punishment. Such was the case on Friday when the WPS ordered DiCicco to pay a $1,000 fine and to perform six hours of soccer related community service in addition to being suspending from this weekend's game. Keep in mind that this is also the second time he has spoken ill of officiating.
However, in this one he admits to being wrong after he finally saw the video. DiCicco then made this statement following the announcement of his punishment:
"In response to my game suspension, first of all, I want to apologize to the referee community, my Breakers players, the team owners and staff, the Breakers fans and all fans of WPS. My comments following the match vs. Washington were wrong. After review of the incident, the center referee, Jose Rivero, was justified issuing the red card and my comments about the quality of the refereeing in our league were made with the emotions of a difficult game having just finished. These comments do not truly reflect my feelings. I think overall the refereeing in WPS has been good and continues to get better and I applaud the commitment of the U.S. Soccer referee community. I have tremendous respect for referees and the difficult task they have with making split second decisions and how often they do, in fact, get it right. Sometimes my emotion and passion gets the better of me and this is an example of that. I love the game of soccer and I love coaching and, specifically, coaching the Breakers. The referees are part of the game and I would not want to do anything to diminish their contributions or our great game.
Boston's three-back played very well given the circumstances, and the Breakers team exhausted Fabiana up top and all over to generate something on the attacking end. The Freedom's Abby Wambach finished the game's only goal in the 73rd minute.
Now on to the random news of the week……SBFC Head Coach Kelly Lindsey abruptly and silently resigned through a letter on Thursday before walking out on her team before practice. The newly appointed interim player/coach Christie Rampone will take over the head coach duties with the assistance of Mike Lyons, a former college and semi-pro player who also has coaching experience with Notre Dame's men's team, the New Jersey U-17 girls ODP, and his four time State Championship high school team.
If New Jersey can bounce back from losing one coach, surely this team do that again. Nevertheless, this is still a tough blow for SBFC. The club shared no explanation regarding Lindsey's sudden departure other than she chose to leave abruptly.
Sky Blue FC has the week off which should help the team adjust to Rampone as the new interim player/coach and will prepare the team for its final two games. Even with crazy results this weekend, this New Jersey club still has a fighting chance if it can win both games next wek.
As for the normal things going on in the WPS this week, there are three games over the next couple of days.
The weekend begins with another meeting between FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) and the Washington Freedom. It will be interesting to see who the Bay Area starts and and what the pace of the game will be since FCGP has no shot at the post season. The Freedom will most likely come away with the win and quite possibly a playoff spot if the Freedom win and the Breakers lose to St. Louis.
The St. Louis Athletica and Boston Breakers meet in the second Saturday match-up. For Boston, this match is absolutely crucial to win. St. Louis, on the other hand, can clinch a playoff berth and may still be able to host with a tie or even a loss (given some other favorable league scenarios). In order for Boston to clinch a spot, the Breakers must defeat St. Louis and hope the Freedom falls.
The weekend's final match features the Chicago Red Stars and the Los Angeles Sol. Both teams have already sealed their fates with L.A. already in the WPS Final and that Chicago definitely out of the playoff picture altogether. The Sol players should approach this game as a chance to redeem themselves from last week's tie on a sub-standard performance. The Red Stars should take this game as a chance to end the season on some type of positive note with at least a good showing and some quality shots on goal.
Week 19 is underway with some early surprises and playoff hopes in limbo. Boston and Washington have the greatest pressure this weekend while Chicago, the Bay Area, and L.A. are looking for a good match, some solid play, and a obviously another win. St. Louis is in a good place win, lose, or draw and SBFC is taking some time to adjust.
What is your take on the weekend? Did DiCiccio or did the official overreact, and what do you think about the coach's apology? Is Christie Rampone as a player/coach a good idea in New Jersey? Share your thoughts below.