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Did Seacoast United deserve a red card against Vermont Green FC?

Let’s head to League Two to discuss a controversial play.

Portland Timbers v New England Revolution Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images

Vermont Green FC are now 2-2-0 after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Seacoast United Phantoms. Vermont struck first when Ryan Combe found the back of the net in the 14th minute. The Phantoms scored two unanswered to stay undefeated with a 4-0-0 record.

The game featured some late controversy as Vermont was looking for an equalizer. A Seacoast player was seen shoving a Vermont player after the ball went out of bounds. The Vermont broadcaster asked for a red card but the referee only brandished a yellow.

It’s uncertain if a different color card would’ve changed the game, but let’s take a closer look with our resident referee expert. Did the Seacoast player deserve a red card?

Jake: Yellow, but it’s orange card territory

Let’s get the lawspeak stuff out of the way first. Pushing is clearly defined under the fouls and misconduct section of the laws of the game, and it is then up to the referee to determine if the foul was careless, reckless, or using excessive force when determining a possible booking. Basically, where is the line between violent conduct and endangering the safety of your opponent, and merely playing in a reckless manner with disregard to the opponent. We’re going to rule out a straight red for violent conduct for deliberately striking your opponent as contact was not made to the head/neck area as far as I can tell.

There are a lot of little factors in play here, but this is essentially a judgment call for the referee. It’s a dead ball situation due to the ball being out of bounds so this play almost certainly can not be judged as careless because the Seacoast player is not actively challenging for the ball. But I don’t think this rises to the level of excessive force either - it’s just a two-handed shove in the back, however blatantly obvious it is. Now, had said shove forced the Vermont player direct into the nearby fence, that would almost certainly rise to a level of endangering the opponent and worthy of a red card.

I think that in a vacuum a yellow is the standard here but a straight red could be justified as well. I know there’s no specific provisions in the laws regarding intent, stupidity, or how unnecessary a foul/action is but there is a provision for common sense and if you display a lack of it on a soccer field don’t be surprised if means an early shower.

Seth: It’s a red card

This play could go either way, in my opinion. The push isn’t egregious enough to injure, but it is deliberate and unnecessary. I watched it back several times and there are two things I don’t like about it. The first is that the Vermont player is facing the opposite direction of the Seacoast player. The second is that both players, as well as the ball, are out of bounds.

The push is totally unnecessary and I support the idea of the referee giving out a red card to deter similar actions in the future. I don’t view the push as a mistake or an example of poor timing.

I understand the decision to give a yellow card because, as Jake said, there isn’t a clear-cut answer here. You hate to see a game altered by sending a player off, especially one that’s competitive. The Phantoms and Green both played well. Kudos to the Phantoms for moving to 4-0-0 on the season