I'm going to be very up front about this. The MLS independent review panel/Disciplinary Committee got this one right. I don't think that Eddie Johnson is kicking out at Kelyn Rowe right after Johnson hauls him down for a free kick. DC United appealed the red card and it was overturned/rescinded by MLS' independent review panel and Johnson is eligible to play this weekend.
However, that's not to say that Juan Guzman didn't get this one right on the field. The rule regarding "fighting" in soccer is very clear, if you take a swing or kick out at someone, you're getting ejected. Plain and simple. If in his opinion Johnson kicked out at a downed opponent he doesn't have a choice except to go to the back pocket.
It's pretty clear on replay that Johnson is just continuing his current motion and pulls back and changes directions to avoid Rowe, but Guzman doesn't have that luxury. What he sees is Johnson commit a blatant foul (more on that in a second) and then start to swing his leg forward towards and downed Rowe and pull back. Seemingly innocent, but I can see where Guzman is thinking that EJ is kicking out. And there doesn't have to be any contact either, all you have to do is throw the punch, or in this case start your kick, and that's considered fighting or serious foul play or violent conduct and it's a red card.
Back to what got Johnson into trouble in the first place. While trying to corral a lose ball, he takes a shot to the back from Scott Caldwell, which Guzman has been letting go all day, and then is dispossessed by Rowe. Johnson then hauls down Rowe immediately and makes his fateful half step towards the downed Rowe. But it's not just the kick out that Rowe is reacting to; it's also likely the forearm Johnson had near his neck when he hauled him down.
The first thing I thought about the foul that it was a combination of tactics and retaliation, and Johnson was going to get a caution. And since Johnson was also fined under some strange "hands to the face" rule earlier in the month (which by the way, also falls under that automatic red card for fighting), I was certain EJ was about to be shown a yellow for just the foul itself. But then Guzman goes back pocket and you have to start to figure out why EJ is being sent off and that slight kicking motion is it. Certainly I can see why Guzman sent EJ off with only one live angle to go on. The review panel gets to see several different angles and this is one of those cases where I don't think Guzman or the review panel are wrong, it's just a difference of situations.
Personally, I still think EJ could have been fined for the foul itself or had the red downgraded to a caution but I understand that's a bit of a stretch and might not be possible under the rules. I didn't think much of the kick out at the time and was more pissed about the foul because I think Johnson went high on Rowe and it was worthy of a caution for that and the tactical/retaliatory character of the foul. Am I bothered by the fact that EJ gets away with a pretty rough foul on Rowe? Yes, but only for a few minutes.
I will also say that while Guzman didn't have a great game, he was consistent with the discipline and fouls and allowed a ton physical play and let Jose Goncalves and Bobby Boswell jaw at each other the entire game without showing either a yellow card. Our compatriots at Black and Red United disagree, but they also have other bones to pick with Mr. Guzman from a Columbus Crew game a few weeks back.
Here's where I might be a little unpopular in D.C., because I don't think this is a foul, even with Guzman calling things fairly loose last week. Diego and Korb are going for a 50/50 ball inside the box and Fagundez goes shoulder to shoulder with a great standing challenge and I don't think he's done anything wrong here. Chris Korb is really the only one protesting but Guzman is standing just a few yards away with a clear angle and there's no call, mainly because there isn't one to make. The reverse angle in the highlight clip at :50 seconds was the best angle for me, as I think it pretty clearly shows Diego going shoulder-to-shoulder with Korb.
And I don't want to hear any complaints about excessive force, either. Fagundez is listed at 140 lbs., Korb at 160, and while I'm sure Diego gave Korb more than a solid nudge, all within the rules as far as I know.