By Kevin Kinkead
CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) – Officiating has been the main storyline through the first three Union games.
Philadelphia was robbed last week. This time, the referee probably got it right.
Twenty-year-old Zach Pfeffer was sent off in the 42nd minute Saturday afternoon, when he delivered an elbow to FC Dallas midfielder Mauro Diaz. The action was quick, and the players collided while chasing a ball towards the touchline in front of the Dallas bench. Pfeffer struck Diaz in the head and was promptly sent off by referee Jose Carlos Rivero.
The 10-man Union went on to concede a pair of second-half goals in a discouraging 2-0 home loss.
Pfeffer explained afterwards that there was no malicious intent in the play:
“I watched the replay in slow motion plenty of times, and I realized on the replay that I don’t think it looks great,” he told reporters. “I explained to my teammates that there was absolutely no intent whatsoever. As I was going, I was going so fast, I don’t think there was time to slow down and I slipped a little bit and he tried to cut it back. It was something where, I think he just kind of turned into my arm, which was extended more, for whatever reason. There was no intent. I was trying to get around him and bump him off the ball. I don’t think it helped either that he was a shorter player. If it happened to a guy like Blas Perez, I might have just hit him in the shoulder or something like that. That was the play. It’s unfortunate and I’m just gonna move on from it.”
Pfeffer was making just his fourth Union start and his 12th appearance overall. The Philadelphia homegrown player started well, making combination passes from his position in the central midfield. One late run sparked a chance on goal that went out for a Union corner kick. His impact began to fade a bit as Dallas started to assert more control in the middle of the pitch.
The ejection took place just before halftime and brought an abrupt end to Pfeffer’s afternoon.
“I was expecting to just go shoulder to shoulder with him, and bump him off the ball,” Pfeffer added. “That’s not what happened. I slipped a little bit, he tried to flick the ball back, we just collided and the ref pulled a red card. You can’t change it, so you’ve got to move on from it.”
Union manager Jim Curtin said post-game that he’d need to take a closer look at the play:
“I’ll have to look at the tape again, but it’s two short guys running full speed,” he said. “Diaz is low to the ground and Zach’s low to the ground. Diaz looked to make a sharp cut back and there is contact with the face, which I know that was a big crackdown. (The referee’s organization) always has these big initiatives of what they want to crack down on and that’s one of them. Premature to immediately flash the red; maybe calm down and ask the fourth official and your linesman who is right in front if that was the decision and if they concur. If it’s a red, then you go that way. I think it was a bang-bang play, and again I’ll have to look at it, but they really went straight red in a game that was a good game, a real game up till that point, an end-to-end one where they had some chances, we had some chances. That’s the way it’s going right now for us.”
Philadelphia falls to 0-1-2 on the season with a road trip to Chicago up next on the calendar.