Leave it to soccer to be the only sport where the game official can be as big a story as any of the players or coaches in the buildup to a game.
So what's the hoopla about the referee of Friday's Costa Rica-USA match, Marco Antonio Rodriguez
? (And we're not talking about how he happens to be a Protestant
minister and have the nickname "El Chiqui Dracula.")
Rodriguez -- one of the most experienced referees in Concacaf -- has a reputation for not being shy about handing out yellow cards.
The USA happens to have eight players
on the trip who are carrying yellow cards in Friday night's
game, which means any of them will be suspended for Tuesday's Mexico game in Columbus if Rodriguez hands them a card.
Rodriguez, who worked at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, is
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann
raised the issue of a referee whose officiating might have huge implications for his country's next match when
he told ESPN Radio Fórmula: "I don't doubt that Marco Antonio Rodriguez is a great referee. But at the same time there is something I can't get
out of my head. I have eight players with a yellow card and four days later we face Mexico. Truthfully, I don't like this."
There is precedence here, though.
2005, Rodriguez refereed the USA-Trinidad & Tobago, which happened to also be the match before the USA and Mexico were to play in Columbus.
For the USA-T&T game, four players
carried cards into the game and all four started: Gregg Berhalter, Bobby Convey
and Claudio Reyna
. Of the four, Convey was carded in the 31st minute, though he subsequently carded again in the 88th minute and sent off in a
match the USA won, 1-0.
But the fact remains, the USA had Rodriguez before it faced Mexico previously and survived. It won, 2-0, in Columbus to clinch -- on Matchday 7 -- a berth in the
2006 World Cup.
(It should also be noted that a referee whose officiating might impact his country's next game will be working Tuesday. The referee of the Jamaica-Costa Rica game is
American Jair Marrufo
. Jamaica's subsequent match will be Oct. 11 -- against the USA in Kansas City.) Marco
Rodriguez's U.S. matches: Sept. 8, 2004
Panama 1 USA 1 (World Cup
Yellow cards: Panama 2 USA 1.
Aug. 17, 2005
USA 1 Trin. & Tobago 0 (World Cup qualifying).
Yellow cards: USA 2 Trin. & Tobago 1.
Red cards: USA 1. September 7, 2005 Guatemala 0 USA 0 (World Cup
Yellow card: USA 1. June 15, 2008 USA 8 Barbados
0 (World Cup qualifying).
Yellow cards: USA 1 Barbados 3. June 11, 2011 USA 1 Panama 2 (Gold Cup).
Yellow cards: USA 5 Panama 2. Sept. 7, 2012 Jamaica 2 USA 1 (World Cup qualifying).
Yellow cards: Jamaica 1 USA 2. Note:
Rodriguez also did USA-Italy (3-1) and USA-Ivory Coast (1-1) at the 2005 Under-17 World Cup.