Sniper Fire

You’ll have to look long and hard to find a more bogus red card than the one Canada got hosed by on Thursday

Thursday was a big day in the world of other football. The USMNT and Mexico faced off at Estadio Azteca possibly for the final time. Italy was officially eliminated from its second straight World Cup after falling to North Macedonia (North Macedonia!) in stoppage time. All across the globe, the final puzzle pieces of Qatar 2022 started to click into place, including at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, where Costa Rica and Canada squared off in an important CONCACAF qualifying match.

Everything was deadlocked in the 34th minute, when an incident occured off the ball between Canada’s Mark-Anthony Kaye and Johan Venegas. Venegas writhed in pain, holding his face as play was halted. Players swarmed the referee, who plucked a yellow card from his pocket and sauntered over to Venegas, seemingly about to book him for simulation. Then he pulled the ol’ bait n’ switch.

Instead of giving Venegas the yellow card, he instead turned Kaye—already on a yellow—and handed him his walking papers. At almost exactly this point, the broadcast got their hands on the replay angle, showing Kaye and Venegas bumping shoulders and Venegas subsequently throwing himself into the air like it was Hell in a Cell ‘98. A sham? Absolutely. But just wait, it gets even shammier.

CONCACAF qualifying utilizes VAR (Video Assistant Replay). Under the current rules, VAR can be used to review, and either retroactively enforce or rescind, red-card offenses. Yellow-card offenses, however, cannot be reviewed and since Kaye’s foul was technically a second yellow card, the play could not be reviewed. 10-man Canada would go on to lose 1-0.

Ultimately, the sending off and subsequent loss shouldn’t impact the CONCACAF qualification picture in a significant way. Canada sit comfortably on top of the region’s qualifying table and can clinch their berth with a draw against a sub-par Jamaica side at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday. Even if they lose their remaining three qualifying matches and fourth-place Costa Rica win theirs, Costa Rica would need to reverse an 11-goal differential in order to leapfrog Canada. Stranger things have happened, but not by much.

All that said, if there’s any justice in this world, Venegas—whose flop was so agregious he even appeared to get a scolding from his own teammates—will get what’s coming to him sooner or later. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but while soccer refs are seemingly blind, the soccer gods see everything.