The North-American United Soccer League (USL) has acknowledged that a player should have been sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the match Sounders II – Phoenix Rising. While that may seem like grounds for some sort of replay of what turned out to be a 1-0 victory for Phoenix Rising, the only punishment handed down will be for the referees of the game to be suspended.
The incident in question happened in the 60th minute when Victor Vasquez (Phoenix) was clearly shown a second yellow card. The announcers on the livestream immediately recognized it and the official box score even correctly identified him. Neither referee Katja Koroleva nor any of her assistants apparently realized it, though. Phoenix’s coaching staff, perhaps fearing that it was only a matter of time until the error was discovered, removed Vasquez from the match after only 2 minutes. Sounders II midfielder Jordy Delem was not so lucky, though, as he picked up his second yellow in the 64th minute and was sent off. So, instead of potentially playing the final 30-odd minutes a man up, Sounders II played the final 26 minutes a man down. While this at least opens the door for some sort of replay, the USL will instead go with the path of least resistance and accept the U.S. Soccer Federation’s decision to simply suspend the match officials for an indefinite period. Vasquez will also be suspended for Phoenix’s next game. That there’s no promise to make the findings of their investigation public further twists the knife, not that there’s much hope of them discovering anything beyond “we messed up”. Ekaterina Koroleva has been a FIFA referee since 2014 and is among the pre-selected referees for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019.
This is hardly the first time an error like this has ever happened. Most prominently, referee Graham Poll eventually showed Croatia’s Josip Šimunić three yellow cards before sending him off in a 2006 World Cup match against Australia. The second of those cards, though, came in the 90th minute and Australia was still able to advance beyond the group stage. If they had lost and failed to advance, it was speculated that they would have had grounds for an appeal. Interestingly, another American referee, Kevin Stott, was the fourth official in that match.