Red card shown in MLS, then rescinded due to honest opponent

Eric Hartline
D.C. United's Luciano Acosta was sent off in the match against the Philadelphia Union, until his opponent did something unbelievably sporting

A red card being rescinded in soccer after a postgame review is hardly unheard of. But for it to happen moments after the card was given is something that rarely ever (maybe never) happens — and it took a unique act of sportsmanship for it to occur Saturday.

D.C. United playmaker Luciano Acosta found himself on the wrong side of the referee in the second half of his team’s match against the Philadelphia Union. With D.C. trailing 1-0, Acosta tangled with Haris Medunjanin on the sideline, with both fighting for a ball that ended up drifting out of play. Medunjanin went down and a foul was called.

Referee Sorin Stoica immediately came over and showed a stunned Acosta a straight red card. A yellow card may have been considered harsh, but the red was shocking and players on the Union appeared to agree, with Alejandro Bedoya seeming to commiserate with Acosta.

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But before Acosta hit the showers, Medunjanin stepped in, telling Stoica the foul was not a red-card worthy offense. The referee listened, and Acosta was not only allowed to stay on the field but didn’t receive a card at all.

Luciano Acosta Haris Medunjanin DC United Philadelphia Union MLS 062417.

After the game Medunjanin explained the situation, saying he spoke with Acosta after the incident and then sought to clear up what the referee thought he had seen.

“I went to the referee and he said, ‘He kicked you’ and I said, ‘I don’t think he kicked me, I think it was just a push.’ So it was no red card for me,” Medunjanin after the game.

He also took a shot at Red Bulls midfielder Felipe, who drew a red card foul on the Union’s Derrick Jones in Philadelphia’s last game, adding: “I hope Felipe was watching, from last week so he could also say the same.

“But it’s no problem, I think you need to be honest. I didn’t feel a kick, it was just a push.”

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United coach Ben Olsen was full of praise for Medunjanin as well.

"I got a lot of respect for that,” Olsen is quoted as saying by MLS' website. “I think he’s a classy player and a classy human being.”

In the end perhaps karma smiled on Medunjanin and the Union as goalkeeper Andre Blake made a point-blank stop on a Lamar Neagle header in stoppage time to preserve Philadelphia’s 1-0 victory.