SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake were prepared for a physical match with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. After all, it was a matchup of the two conference leaders, and furthermore, Sporting lead the league in fouls committed, having been whistled 14 more times than any other club. Narrow that down to playoff teams, and it’s 33 more fouls.
The match lived up to RSL's expectations, as Sporting KC committed 15 fouls to RSL's 11, and seven yellow cards were shown, plus one red.
But when the final whistle blew in RSL's 2-1 loss to Sporting, thanks to a a 97th-minute winner from Ike Opara, RSL head coach Jason Kreis wasn't up in arms about the physicality of the match. It was something else.
“I think it was exactly what we expected, exactly what we prepared for and talked to the guys about,” said Kreis in his postgame press conference on Sporting's physicality. “It was a situation that we got to try to keep focused, move on from decisions that are tough and move on from getting fouled a lot and try to keep your focus in the game.”
The officiating was at the fore once again for Kreis, who has made comments in the past about refereeing decisions. He was particularly disappointed with the experience level of head referee Matthew Foerster for this ultra-competitive matchup of East vs. West leaders. Saturday's match was Foerster's 16th match in MLS, and Kreis criticized the "level of consistency" in Foerster's decisions.
“Again, I don't want to belabor the point about the referee being poor,” said Kreis. “He is going to be poor. It is his [16th] match of his entire career. To referee in a sold-out stadium, in a first-place versus second-place matchup is the wrong game for somebody that has [so little] experience in professional soccer refereeing.”
Asked how to change it, Kreis chirped in with: “I asked again, and I'll say it now: Maybe I need to call them and speak to them directly. There needs to be more thought about how we are assigning the referees.”
Kreis was especially torqued about having his left fullback Chris Wingert sent off for a second yellow card in the 66th minute when his team was still leading 1-0.
“I just re-watched the replay,” Kreis said leading the press conference on the foul that gave Wingert the controversial send-off. “I did it because I wanted to come here with facts rather than just opinions about what I think I saw, what I thought I saw. I watched it again and it is a poor decision. It is an incredibly poor decision against us.”
Kreis went on to explain the play as he saw it.
“Chris barely touches the player, he falls down and now we are picking up a second yellow card,” he said. “Multiple players on our team went through the exact same thing and weren't picking up yellow cards for the same exact actions — pulling shirts, stopping counter attacks in the first half. The level of consistency tonight was as low as I've ever seen any referee in MLS.”