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29 July 2017

Columbia Crew lose appeal to overturn Lalas Abubakar’s red card

Lalas Abubakar

Columbus Crew SC will be without center backs Lalas Abubakar and Jonathan Mensah on Saturday at Real Salt Lake, but it did try – unsuccessfully – to improve its situation.

Coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed Friday that he appealed Abubakar’s red card after the Crew’s 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union.

Berhalter found out last night the appeal was unsuccessful. Crew SC has one unsuccessful red card appeal remaining this season.

Abubakar was shown a red card for violent conduct in the 76th minute Wednesday after making contact Philadelphia midfielder Ilsinho’s face.

Ilsinho fouled Abubakar as the rookie center back rose up to attempt a header and stood between Abubakar and the ball, at which point Abubakar made contact.

After the game, Berhalter described Abubakar’s contact with Ilsinho as a “swim move” and took issue with what he perceived to be acting by Ilsinho.

In order for Abubakar’s red card to have been successfully appealed, a three-member panel with one member each from U.S. Soccer, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Professional Referee Organization would have had to unanimously determine the referee did not correctly identify the offense and/or applied disciplinary action not appropriate for the offense.

Berhalter said Friday he knew there would be some difficulty in getting a unanimous ruling, but he decided to roll the dice.

”You could make the case that (referee Ismail Elfath) interpreted that way because there was contact to the head are, but I think there could be a better job of understanding the situation, understanding the play and the context, right?” Berhalter said via phone Friday.

”He could see Lalas got fouled first. He called the foul. He knows that. Then he can see (Ilsinho), they’re winning the game and he wants to delay it even more, preventing us from playing quickly.

”Because of all that, then you just use a little common sense. And I don’t think he did that all. I think it was a snap judgement. I think the fourth official and the AR were there, they had a good view of it and I don’t think there was enough support on that play to make the right decision.”

Berhalter maintained that he though neither play – the other was Mensah’s takedown of C.J. Sapong in the first half that was ruled denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity – deserved a red card, but he decided to appeal Abubakar’s because of what he perceived to be the origin of the play.

”In my opinion it’s not a red card, but I’m not a referee. I think the whole play happened where the player fouls Lalas then prohibits him from getting the ball and Lalas is just trying to get him out of the way,” Berhalter said. “Maybe because of the (Ilsinho’s) height he comes around his head and neck, but it wasn’t a strike. It wasn’t a violent strike. It wasn’t any of that.”

Abuakar was frustrated after the game, but said he could take the red card as a learning experience.

He is by nature an aggressive player, and different referees might perceive that aggression differently.

Berhalter agreed with Abubakar’s assessment and added his learning from the game should take place beyond just the red card play.

”I think that whole game is a learning opportunity for Lalas. I think there’s a number of plays where he felt he could have done better and that’s why he’s a young player and that’s why he’s learning,” Berhalter said.

”To me he’s been doing a good job since he’s been playing and as long as he can learn from this he’ll be fine.”

Without Mensah and Abubakar, Nicolai Naess, Josh Williams and Alex Crognale will be the Crew’s three center back options for Saturday.



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