Two new stars reverse fortunes in second week

[MLS RED CARDS] They were two-goal heroes in the first week of play and sent off in the second, so in Week 3 Vancouver and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, will have to make do without Designated Players Eric Hassli and Omar Bravo when they meet Saturday at Empire Field.

Seldom have two DPs debuted so dramatically in quite different ways in their first two league appearances. Hassli took a second caution for a late and needless midfield lunge at defender Carlos Valdes, and Bravo was sent off with a straight red for a push into the back of Gustavo Puerari as he prepared to put away a long, breakaway pass from Marco Pappa.

Both teams that went down to 10 men lost, but not much else about the incidents were similar. Vancouver fell, 1-0, to Philadelphia on a Carlos Ruiz goal, and the penalty kick awarded for Bravo’s alleged foul triggered a three-goal outburst that carried Chicago past SKC, 3-2.

Though Hassli reacted incredulously when the red card came out, he really didn’t have a case; his late tackle badly missed the ball and caught Valdes high on the leg.

On the other hand, Bravo sprinted to chase down Puerari and got close enough to put in a challenge, but as he attempted a tackle he jarred Puerari with his arm as the Fire attacker wound up to shoot. As Puerari stumbled he missed the ball, which Bravo kicked out for a corner.

Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen held his head in disbelief and SKC manager Peter Vermes protested vehemently. After the match Vermes said to mlssoccer.com, “It’s not a red card, it is not even a penalty. Omar goes in, and at the same time he’s giving the guy a little shoulder and he kicks the ball out-of-bounds himself. The guy didn’t even take a shot.”

The merits of the two dismissals aside, both were intriguing examples of DPs who were signed to score goals doing much more. In his first game, Hassli worked all over the attacking half of the field while scoring the first and fourth goals of a 4-2 win. Bravo’s guile and energy, plus two goals, enabled SKC to win the first of 10 straight home games, 3-2, over Chivas USA at Home Depot Center.

Hassli arrived shortly before the start of the season, Kansas City announced Bravo’s signing last year, months before tacking “Sporting” in front of its name. After getting off to great starts, they hit bottom, and now have to sit out a game while their teams make do without them.

Their coaches can’t fault them for effort. They may ask for a bit more discretion in defensive duties, and there’s no telling how that commitment will hold up over the long haul, yet at least two of this year’s new crop of Designated Players seem willing to be team players as well.

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