The latest Scorpions-Minnesota United matchup was little more than 20 minutes old when the latest bit of mayhem in a rivalry already filled to the brim took place:
* United’s Tiago Calvano kicked Scorpions defender Julius James in the back of the head in pursuit of a loose ball.
* James reacted in a rage, shoving Calvano down being swept up in a scrum of players.
* Calvano, after some requisite play-acting, was shown a yellow card for dangerous play, while James was sent off with a straight red that left the Scorpions down a man for the final 66 minutes of their 2-0 loss last Saturday at Toyota Field.
James accepted a portion of the blame on Tuesday, saying he felt “sad” and “really, really disappointed” to have contributed to a defeat that already puts the Scorpions in jeopardy in the NASL’s nine-game spring season. But he also accused Calvano of provoking him with an “obvious” intentional kick.
“Right as it happened, this is not to be dramatic,” he said, “but I felt like that was a direct attack on my career and my life. The good thing about it, I saw after I headed it, ‘Wow, this guy is still coming for my head.’ At the last moment, I saw it and I ducked my head.”
“I felt bad for my reaction. My reaction…it happened. I landed, and I pushed him down, and I was like what the explicit are you doing. That’s the most dangerous play you can do for a soccer player. He actually walked across and told coach (Alen Marcina) that I punched him in the face. But I didn’t. I just pushed his shoulders, and then all their players came across and the referee made his decision.”
“When somebody does something nasty like that, it’s terrible for the sport, it’s terrible for life, it’s terrible for everything. You don’t want to play the sport and think somebody would willingly do something like this. If you watch the clip, you would see he saw me coming and he followed through.”
“I want to publicly tell the fans this is not a losing organization. We work our (butts) off every day in practice. The performance, even though we lost, we worked hard and I’m proud of the guys. I’m not sure if I should apologize this time, because after seeing the clip a second time I don’t know anyone else who wouldn’t go after the guy for his decision to go after my head like that.”
Red cards come with an automatic one-match suspension in the NASL. Scorpions president Howard Cornfield said the team lodged an appeal to the league’s infractions committee, which meets every Wednesday, but was not overly hopeful to have the suspension overturned for Saturday’s match at Atlanta.
From this vantage point, it seems pretty clear that Calvano really clocked James in a vulnerable spot, and his ensuing embellishment was unbecoming at best. But it should be noted that neither Marcina or teammate Danny Barrera mounted much of a defense when it came to James’ reaction.
“Obviously, a red card…soccer is so unpredictable, you can never see that coming,” Barrera said. “Yeah, it looked like a high kick, almost hit him in the head. Just a bad reaction by Julius. I think he put the referee in a tough situation. It could have gone either way and it didn’t go our way.”
Said Marcina, “It’s hard (to tell if it was intentional.) We’re not in the moment, in the spot. The tape, maybe it’s not the full picture. All I know is that it’s an unfortunate circumstance and guys played well for 65, 70 minutes a man down.”