Despite this perhaps raising the number of players sent off, it's the only way for officials to call a game properly.
There will always be vigorous debate of players sent off with a straight red card, for the borderline between what is serious foul play (red card) and a reckless tackle (yellow) is a murky one at best. Take the red card issued to Dema Kovalenko a few weeks ago for his two-leg, studs-up tackle on Rapids midfielder Medhi Ballouchy April 11 . If such a dangerous tackle makes some contact with the ball, sometimes referees will let the offender off with a caution, though the danger to the opposing player usually isn't mitigated.
Kovalenko, his teammates, and Coach Bruce Arena protested the call, yet Kovalenko came straight into Ballouchy from the front, went over the ball with his right foot, and for good measure with his left foot hacked the Rapids midfielder on the ankle.
Coaches and, usually defenders almost always howl loudly when a red card comes out for denying a goalscoring opportunity. The myth of the "last man" persists, though this is not stipulated in the rules. Red Bulls right back Carlos Johnson was certainly not the last man when he tripped Herculez Gomez Thursday night in the Kansas City-New York match, but he did deny an "obvious goalscoring opportunity," and off he went.
Kennedy had also let play continue despite a Red Bulls' handball at midfield, so he earns double points. Johnson committed his foul inside the penalty area, and Claudio Lopez converted the penalty kick, so the Red Bulls were a goal down and a man down in the third minute. Rough justice, perhaps, but justice nonetheless.
Handball calls in the penalty area, despite clarifications issued by FIFA over the past decade regarding what constitutes a deliberate offense, are always controversial, especially when a a seemingly innocuous arm-to-ball incident involving Marvell Wynne last weekend resulted in FC Dallas netting the winning goal.
TFC coach John Carver issued a testy criticism of the call and MLS fined him $750. Carver has occasionally uttered some outrageous comments but in this case I have to say he's absolutely right, as there's no way Wynne's arm - extended to his left side, away from the goal - could be at fault when David Ferreira flicked the ball up unexpectedly. In fact, if either player might be deemed guilty of causing the handball deliberately, Ferreira could be more culpable than Wynne.
Returning to the issue of second cautions, for much of league's history, referees seldom showed a yellow to a cautioned player, which resulted in heinous and/or obvious fouls clearly deserving of a card passing without sanction. Of many examples I will only cite the case a few years ago of Landon Donovan, already carrying a yellow card, deliberately pulling the jersey of an opponent so as to kill a counterattack. Despite heated protests, he stayed on the field.
Maybe Donovan escaped sanction on that occasion because of who he is, yet the unwritten rule for players and coaches used to be anything less than a blatant mugging would probably be forgiven, especially if the first caution might be regarded as a softie.
No longer is this the case, as shown when the already-cautioned Paulo Nagumura took down Donovan, ironically, with a sliding tackle in the Galaxy-Chivas USA match April 18, and when Galaxy forward Alan Gordon got hit with a second yellow within three minutes in the same game.
Of course criticism rained down on referee Tim Weyland for "losing control," yet in both cases he simply played it by the book, and did so again in the final minutes when Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter, making his MLS debut, hauled down Alecko Eskandarian to thwart a breakaway. Out came the red card, as it should have.
The game ended with 19 players but is that the fault of Weyland? Hardly. Perhaps he started out by calling the game more tightly than the players, coaches and fans would have liked but that message should have gotten through. Obviously, it didn't.
Players carrying a yellow card, regardless of origin, should regard it for what it is -- official notification from the referee to toe the line -- or pay the consequences.