I must admit, this is not good news. In preparing for tomorrow's match against D.C. United, I checked the disciplinary page on MLS and saw two Chivas USA players suspended against D.C. The first one, Oswaldo Minda, was no surprise as he's been the league leader in yellow cards, and we knew that he would be suspended when he got another yellow Wednesday against the Columbus Crew.
The second name was a complete shock, however. Defender James Riley, the only outfield player to play every minute in MLS play this season for Chivas, is listed as being suspended Sunday for "Red Card."
I watched that game start to finish. I didn't recall any red cards. And hey, the match stats on MLSsoccer.com didn't list a red card, or any discipline leveled at Riley. What's this? The local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, listed the game stats and also did not list any red cards. There is no reference to it on Chivas USA's official website, nor is it included in the official statistics page on that website. What in the world is going on?I went back and re-watched the end of the match, and Riley finished the game on the field. The only explanation is that he was given a straight red card by referee Jorge Gonzalez after the final whistle. That happens. But there was no explanation about the red card publicly, or that it even happened, until it ended up on the disciplinary report on the league's website Friday.
Needless to say, this is a problem. On one hand, having a player obtain a red card with no public explanation as to when and why he received a red card is a problem for a league's transparency. I am not so conspiracy-minded to think this is bogus altogether, but can't you imagine the room for abuse of this issue potentially? A team "needs" to win for whatever reason, and so an opponent is given a red card after the final whistle, with no acknowledgment for days and no explanation at any point? Seems like a perfect way to hamstring a team that is less-favored. I am so puzzled that I almost wonder if Riley got mixed up with some other player in the league, due to a clerical error or something of the like.
The other problem is that Chivas don't have a backup at right back. It was believed that Scott Gordon could play right back, but he was released months ago. Former Chivas beat writer Adam Serrano told me that John Valencia was expected to be the backup, even though he's been playing center back all year. Could Ante Jazic or Jorge Villafana shift over to the right against D.C.? It seems unlikely, but I have no idea. Maybe the roster's ultimate utility player, Ben Zemanski, will fill in. He is right footed, after all. Needless to say, Riley was literally the worst player to miss a match for Chivas, and now he's out. And we don't know exactly why. And D.C. is desperate to stay in the playoff places. On second thought, maybe those conspiracy theories aren't so crazy.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!