The suspension of the designated player overshadowed a Vancouver's 2-0 loss to Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders on Saturday afternoon.
But somehow, the MLS disciplinary committee found a way.
Suspending Whitecaps designated player Barry Robson on the eve of the match, which the ‘Caps ultimately lost 2-0 on Saturday, the decision of the committee – and more precisely, the timing of the announcement – threw Vancouver’s gameplan out the window.
With Robson sitting on the sidelines for kicking a ball aggressively in the direction of a match official in Wednesday's 2-0 loss to FC Dallas, it added to head coach Martin Rennie's selection headache, given the suspension to Martin Bonjour for yellow card accumulation and the continued absence of concussed captain Jay DeMerit.
“I was supposed to be playing and then the manager’s had to change – the whole team has had to change,” Robson said. “It was a huge disadvantage and I feel sorry for the players and the staff at our club, but what can I do?”
Well – not kicking a ball at an assistant referee next time might be a start – but regardless of the merit of Robson’s suspension, the timing and the manner in which the suspension was handled have come under scrutiny from some of the country’s top pundits, such as TSN analyst and former Canadian international Jason deVos, who tweeted: “Massive loss for @WhitecapsFC - Barry Robson suspended for today’s game. How can the league make that decision on the morning of the game?!?”
The exasperation deVos and many others expressed seems perfectly justified – and given that pundit’s neutral status, one can only imagine Rennie’s reaction upon getting the phone call to inform him of the news late on Friday night.
“I think [Robson] would agree that that was something that wasn’t acceptable and deserves one game,” Rennie said. “The issue is that we didn’t know until 9:00 PM last night and that makes it very hard because we’ve already put together our training, we’ve already picked our A-team, we’ve already picked our starting lineup and we’ve gone through all of our set plays. It was really hard to have a player like that, our captain, who is involved with everything you’re doing, it was tough.”
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Rennie’s complaints didn’t stop with the suspension though – the Scotsman also questioned whether the free kick awarded by referee Silviu Petrescu which led to Fredy Montero’s game winner was the correct call.
“I thought at the time it probably wasn’t a free kick,” Rennie said. “But regardless of that we didn’t defend the free kick well and once we lost that goal the game opened up a bit obviously – we were chasing it a little bit and we were hit by the second one. But at that point you have to go for it to try and get back in the game.”