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Process served them

Revolution appeal red card successfully

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 12, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH - The i-dotting and t-crossing the Revolution went through before deciding to appeal the red card issued to Fernando Cardenas last week in a loss to Real Salt Lake was meticulous and relentless, but the front office figured it was worth it.

The Revolution lost Cardenas in the 81st minute of their 2-1 loss after he crashed into Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave. The card meant Cardenas would be facing a suspension for Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, along with a fine of up to $500.

Cardenas came off the field deflated.

“He was absolutely gutted,’’ coach Jay Heaps said. “When he came off, I could see it in his face that he did not cause a red card.’’

Heaps said that from his view along the sideline, he could see the call was a byproduct of a tense game that had seen Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson get sent off with a red card in the 58th minute.

“I just felt that the moment, the crowd was in it, the referee had already given a red card, I just felt that the momentum of the situation was the red card, not the actual play,’’ Heaps said.

But it didn’t matter what the Revolution thought, it mattered what they could prove. So Heaps, general manager Michael Burns, and team president Brian Bilello talked it over.

The conversations went all the way up to owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, who had to sign off on a $25,000 check, which would be held as a bond.

Win the appeal and they get the money back. If it is considered frivolous, they not only lose the money but Cardenas’s fine and suspension are doubled.

“This isn’t something where you say, ‘Hey, we want to review this,’ ’’ Heaps said. “You have to have a pretty strong resolve that you’re right, you have to have the evidence to back it up, and third, you have to have a pretty strong conviction that they don’t deem it frivolous because if they deem it frivolous, then you lose quite a bit.’’

Beyond that, it was something that had never been done. This is the first year that Major League Soccer is allowing teams to challenge red cards, and the Revolution became the first to successfully appeal. But because it was unprecedented, the Revolution had to be certain.

“We certainly didn’t approach this and our mind-set was not to be the trendsetters or the leaders in this regard, but having said that, we felt very, very strongly that the red card wasn’t just,’’ Burns said. “There’s always some concern. It’s an appeal process. We knew going into it we felt good about it. We felt good about it in the sense that we felt we had a good case. But until they make the phone call and call you back to tell you you’ve won the appeal, you don’t know for sure.’’

They were betting on principle.

“As a coach, you have to take those moments and use them as strengthening the core, strengthening that us-against-the-world mentality,’’ Heaps said. “It’s times when it works, and it’s times when you have to take a stand. So rather than saying, ‘Hey, the referee made a mistake.’ We said, ‘We’re going to take the chance and on principle we’re going to fight.’ ’’

The Revolution covered all the bases, starting with Cardenas. The players’ union required that he be informed of the consequences of the appeal being found frivolous. But he was as confident as management.

They pored over the rules, and watched and rewatched the replay.

“We didn’t know which way they were going to go,’’ Heaps said. “We didn’t know which red cards they were going to look to rescind. We just weren’t exactly sure, we just went on the fact of principle saying, ‘You know what? We know it wasn’t a red card. Anyone who sees the tape knows it shouldn’t have been a red card.’ We just don’t know how the process is going to play out.’’

Then, it fell in the hands of the technical staff, finding the angle that showed Cardenas’s foot landed, and then Olave’s leg came down on top of it. The view on the Revolution’s broadcast wasn’t clear. Salt Lake had a different angle. Jeff Wroblewski, the Revolution’s digital content assistant, cut it just so.

Burns said, “We looked at the video clips countless times and it was very clear to us that he never made contact with the opponent and he was ejected for a serious foul on a tackle, and when we looked at it there was no foul committed by Cardenas on the play, never mind a red card, in our opinion. So we put clips and photographs together and the independent panel reviewed it and agreed with us.’’

Because of it, the Revolution go into Saturday’s game with a player who’s been as good as anyone on the roster the last three games. Red cards have left their mark on the Revolution, from the one Stephen McCarthy picked up in the first half of a loss to Sporting KC in March to the one Shalrie Joseph was hit with retroactively in April, when the league’s disciplinary committee ruled that his tackle on FC Dallas’s Ricardo Villar was reckless.

“From a player’s perspective, it’s good that we actually got a call to go our way,’’ Joseph said. “But we have to put that behind us. Nando’s going to be ready to play on Saturday and he’s excited about that. So we look forward to having him out there on Saturday, too.’’

Still, for all the work the Revolution had to put in, Heaps said he didn’t look at it as catching a break.

“I don’t know if we caught anything,’’ he said. “We had to fight for this one. We didn’t catch anything.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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