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Anatomy of a Goal: Red Card Edition

This week we look at Pedro Santos’s red card.

MLS: Columbus Crew at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from Columbus Crew SC‘s previous match.

For match 10 of the 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at . . . well there were no goals from this week’s 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders. Instead, we take a look at Pedro Santos’ 15th minute red card that put Crew SC down a man for the remainder of Saturday’s match.

This week we’ll break down the play leading up to the foul and take a look at multiple frames from the foul itself to hopefully determine why Santos kicked Alex Roldan in the throat.

Here’s a look at the full play from Santos’s red card foul. Apologies for the lack of audio.

Because there was not a goal here, we will take a different approaching to breaking down this red card. First, we will take a look at the buildup to the foul. Then, we will look at the actual foul and try to determine what Santos was doing and whether a red card should have been given.

Above, Lalas Abubakar has just played a drop pass to Zack Steffen. As the ball rolls toward the Columbus goalkeeper, he is pressured by Will Bruin. Here, Steffen can either play a quick pass to his left to Milton Valenzuela play a pass right back to Abubakar, clear the ball down the field and out of danger or make quick pass to Josh Williams.

Steffen decides to hit the ball long and out of danger. The Black & Gold keeper’s pass is right towards Gyasi Zardes, who tries to out jump Chad Marshall to flick a header into the path of Santos.

Zardes out jumps Marshall and flicks his header forward as Santos continues his run. Unfortunately, that flick is right at Seattle center-back Kim Kee-Hee.

With Santos applying slight pressure, Kim plays a quick pass out to Nouhou Tolo.

Tolo quickly turns up the field as Santos gives chase.

Having done a quick cutback to send Santos further down the field, Tolo creates a few yards of space and passes the ball down the wing to Roldan.

Roldan receives Tolo’s pass under heavy pressure from Hector Jimenez. As the pass approaches Roldan, he tries to use his first touch with his left foot to move the ball around Jimenez. However, Roldan’s touch is too heavy and sends the ball right toward Santos.

With the ball heading toward Santos, the Crew SC winger and Seattle midfielder are now in a battle for the loose ball.

Santos is the first to Roldan’s heavy touch and has multiple options (including turning the ball back toward the Seattle goal). He can play a quick square pass to Federico Higuain, knock a diagonal ball to Ricardo Clark, play a drop pass to Wil Trapp or a simple touch-pass to Jimenez who would then have multiple options.

As you know, Santos decides to attempt what looks like a long clearance toward his own goal, a clearance out of bounds (for some strange reason), or a kick out off of Roldan.

Before we review the play itself, let’s take a look at the laws of the game for when a red card should be given.

According to the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB), the body tasked with determining the rules for soccer, 2017-2018 laws of the game, the two relevant instances to this situation in which a red card may be given are:

a serious foul play

violent conduct

Violent conduct is reserved for plays in which a challenge for the ball isn’t involved, so let’s just look “serious foul play.”

A serious foul play is defined as:

A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality may be sanctioned as a serious foul play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of a serious foul play.

When analyzing this play, we will have to determine whether this is a tackle or challenge for the ball, does the tackle use excessive force or brutality or does the player in challenging from the front, side, or behind use excessive force or endanger the safety of an opponent?

Let’s look at the rest of the play.

As Santos moves toward the ball, he pulls his leg back like he’s attempting a long kick. It’s unclear why Santos would try to kick the ball this hard from the Seattle end back toward the Columbus end.

Additionally, Santos is trying to make a play on the ball, so it is clear that we have fulfilled the first criteria for a red card because this is clearly a challenge for the ball.

From the reverse angle you can see Santos leaning back like he’s trying to take a shot right at Roldan. Again, it’s unclear what Santos is trying to do here. Kicking the ball out of bounds off of Roldan is probably the worst of Santos’ options, but that appears to be his goal.

Santos hits the ball with force just as Roldan arrives. Roldan then deflects the ball out of bounds.

For some reason, Santos’ leg continues to rise. Again, such a hard kick at the ball from this position was both unnecessary and an odd choice.

Roldan’s momentum carries him right into Santos’ high boot. Santos is now off ground and off balance.

Santos is now falling backward and has kicked Roldan in the face. In my opinion, a high boot to the face on a challenge for the ball at the very least endangers the safety of an opponent and is likely both excessive and brutal. Despite the fact that Roldan’s momentum carries him forward, there was no reason for Santos to attempt such a hard kick out with multiple better options.

Santos seems to panic as he falls and pushes against Roldan with his foot, sending the Sounder to the turf. Casey Keller’s game commentary would have you believe that this straightening of the leg by Santos was an intentional kick at Roldan and is the reason for the red card. I think Keller is wrong here. Santos likely is trying to regain balance and avoid falling right on his back, so pushes against the only bit of resistance that he has. Still, there is no excuse for Santos’ foot being at Roldan’s head.

Both Roldan and Santos fall to the turf and luckily neither was injured.

Inexplicably, the referee does not initially call a foul. After being called over by one of his linesman, he decides to take a video review of the play.

After a brief review, the referee correctly assesses a red card to Santos.


  1. Had Zardes’ flick been just a yard closer to Santos, the winger likely would have been loose on a breakaway.
  2. Santos’ odd decision to kick the ball as hard as he could is perplexing. There were multiple great and simple options available that could have sent Crew SC toward the goal but Santos instead decided to kick the ball toward his own goal as hard as he could
  3. It’s obvious that this play should have been given a red card. I disagree with Keller that the straightening of Santos’s knee while falling was intentional, but it likely did contribute to the card.