In case you missed last nights' CONCACAF Champions' League action, here's a pictorial summary:
The next time someone starts in about how the problem with the CONCACAF Champions League is that MLS teams "don't take it seriously" tell them that they can't expect low comedy to be treated like a Joseph Conrad novel.
To be fair the first match, which saw Toronto in Panama to take on Arabe Unido in front of 500 or so fans who were there demonstrating how seriously everybody else takes this whole thing, did have the feel of bad amateur theater, featuring some of the worst, most shamelessly obvious diving, flopping and rolling around in agony anyone has ever seen.
To put it bluntly, it was a disgrace. "Take it seriously" my ass. It's just not possible.
Of course the featured performer of the night was referee Marlon Mejia who did a brilliant impression of a blind man on peyote, and a shamelessly biased one at that.
At halftime the fouls called score was TFC 12 Unido 1 which might not have been so bad except that Prekis' patched-together lineup - imagine the gall of the man, not taking this match "seriously" - was playing rather tentatively while the Panamanians spent the entire 45 minutes hacking down their opponents like drunken lumberjacks.
Although drunken lumberjacks wouldn't take a hunk out of a tree with an axe and then fall down on the ground pretending that it was really the tree which had committed the assault.
All of which was the prelude to the 50th minute sendoff of TFC's Nick Labrocca for contact with Unidos' keeper on a 50/50 ball where he was obviously trying not to hurt the guy.
Judge for yourself at around 1:03
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeybdAtvBDI"]YouTube- 8.24.10 CCL Highlights Arabe Unido v Toronto[/ame]
The excellent summary at GOAL.COM describes it beautifully:
Calderon grabbed at his face as if somebody had thrown acid on it and the referee immediately showed Labrocca red. At worst, this was worthy of a yellow, but a sending off was more than harsh. Referee Mejia’s red card seemed to have mystical curative properties, though, as its appearance ostensibly healed Calderon, who was quickly back to his feet.
To be honest, TFC did not look the better team last night, but most road teams in this kind of competition never really get their feet under them until the second half, and Toronto played most of that half with ten men.
Well, nine after the sendoff of US U20 forward Fuad Ibrahim who a) was given a yellow card for nothing at all and then b) given a second yellow and a sendoff because, as near as anyone can figure, acting captain Julian de Guzman argued about the call.
I have no other explanation.
Still, that was just the warmup act for the evenings' most egregious piece of refereeing malpractice - if not, inded, malfeasance - when...well, watch for yourself, beginning at around 0:15
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU3ZVkkJjLw"]YouTube- 8.24.10 LC Resumen Santos v Columbus[/ame]
Renteria gets an elbow in the head. We know it happened because of the copious blood streaming from the wound.
Naturally no foul was called.
Renteria - who the referee apparently assumes has torn a hole in his own face - has to go off long enough to get bandaged and have his bloodsoaked shirt replaced.
The shirt, unfortunately, was generic and did not have his name or number on it. Nevertheless, the fourth official approved it and the center referee waved him back on.
Renteria hesitated to make sure that the shirt was OK and the refree again waved for him to come on.
Immediately afterwards, Renteria served a gorgeous ball into the box which Andy Iro converted for a goal and the lead.
At which point the fourth official - the MEXICAN fourth official - called the referee over and explained that the goal could not stand because Renteria was wearing a generic shirt.
The referee, incredibly, agreed, and gave Renteria a yellow card - which will mean missing the next match - for doing what the officials told him to do.
So the match remained scoreless until the 93rd minute when, just as the referee was going to have to admit that he couldn't do anything more to help Santos win, the hosts scored a goal whereuopn the idiot in the middle couldn't blow his whistle fast enough.
Now again, let's just admit that neither team played all that well, largely because neither team sent out their best possible lineup.
Which, rather than demonstrating a lack of respect for the competition ought to beg the question:
How can anyone take an obviously rigged game seriously?
Of course CONCACAF could change the whole equation if they wanted to simply by suspending the involved officials and issuing a strongly worded statement to the effect that this kind of crap simply won't be tolerated, but we all know they won't.
Put another way, why should the teams take this tournament seriously when it's clear that CONCACAF does not?