In a perfect world, Daniel Radford would not have been assigned to ref Tuesday's match, a rivalry game
between two of MLS's biggest clubs. According to PRO, he's never reffed an MLS game. He did do a San Jose-Chicago Open Cup game in 2011 during which he red carded the Fire's Gonzalo Segares and got chased around the field by the Costa Rican for his trouble.
But Radford was assigned to the game and despite the Sounders' objections about his inexperience, I was told, was confirmed as the match official.
None of that in any way justifies what happened on the field, on the sidelines or in the stands. No, Tuesday night was not Seattle's finest hour. As co-owner Adrian Hanauer said, "the passion piece maybe went a little bit overboard."
In a perfect world, we'd have an explanation from MLS on how it came to its decision to suspend Dempsey three games for referee abuse, not six for referee assault, for which he could have easily been found guilty. Three vs. six games make no difference to the Sounders -- they assumed they'll be without him for the last three games because of the Gold Cup -- but three vs. six games for U.S. Soccer is likely the difference between Dempsey going to the Gold Cup, if Jurgen Klinsmann picks him, and not going to the Gold Cup.
But there's is no perfect world in court, either. The trier of fact doesn't have to explain his or her decision to interpret facts one way or another, and that decision can generally be overturned only on the basis of law, not fact. The institution of the courts is given the benefit of the doubt because of the seriousness with which it considers matters.
My takeaway from all that happened after the Portland-Seattle game is the seriousness with which all parties have taken the institution of the Open Cup.
I again begin with the Sounders. No one in MLS has taken the Open Cup more seriously than the Sounders, defending champions, winners of four of the last six titles and unbeaten at Starfire, their Open Cup home, for 20 games until Tuesday's loss. They also happened to be the only MLS club to have two teams playing this week in the fourth round. Sounders 2 led Real Salt Lake at the half on the road before falling, 2-1.
Not everyone treats the Open Cup like the Sounders do. The same day the tussle in Tukwila took place an article appeared in the New York Times previewing the Cosmos-NYCFC Open Cup match. Former Red Bulls coach Mike Petke talked of the problem he had fielding a team for last year's Open Cup match against the Cosmos. It was a given that Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave wouldn't play -- they basically never played on artificial turf -- but Petke said four other key players begged off. "My entire role over the week leading up to the game," he told the Times, "was to try and talk these guys into playing and taking this game seriously.” Needless to say, the Red Bulls lost and lost badly, 3-0
No, all MLS teams don't take the Open Cup seriously. But we do think, thanks to the Sounders' lead, things are getting better. The Galaxy started Robbie Keane against an PSA Elite, a USASA team, and it needed the Irishman's hat trick to dispose of the amateurs from Orange County after they took an early lead. Many of MLS's big stars -- Kaka at Orlando City and David Villa at NYCFC -- did not play, but a good number of teams used their Designated Players even if unlike the Sounders they were playing lower division teams. Crowds are getting better, too. There were more than 19,000 fans at Sporting Park for the first Sporting KC-Saint Louis FC match, and there was a sellout at Shuart Stadium for the Cosmos-NYCFC thriller.
In face of mounting investment by owners in MLS, the easy way out for clubs would be to slough off the Open Cup. But it isn't going anywhere, so they must make the best of an imperfect world.
If the lesson of the tussle in Tukwila is to take the Open Cup a little more seriously -- how it's organized, how it's played and how it's adjudicated -- then not Seattle's finest hour might in a small way help make the institution of the Open Cup stronger.