Thierry Henry scored his eighth goal of the season in New York's 3-3 draw against Portland on Sunday, making him the league's top scorer (along with Landon Donovan). That was just the set-up for the joke that was his straight red card in injury time for giving the Timbers' Adam Moffat a firm pat on the back of the head (35 seconds into the video) out of frustration. Moffat responded by shoving Henry, but the two quickly seemed to resolve their dispute before the referee decided that he didn't like the initial touches.
Moffat was shown a yellow card and Henry a red for "violent conduct." Because those slaps to the back of the melon could've given Moffat a headache or something. Granted, Henry should not have made any kind of aggressive contact with Moffat's head, so a yellow for both players could have been justified. The ref obviously did not agree, though.
After the initial shock of the strangely harsh punishment wore off, Thierry reacted in Mourinho-esque fashion by shaking hands with his opponents and the referee before walking away.
Needless to say, New York was not happy with the decision and on Monday, sporting director Erik Soler ripped into the quality of MLS officiating on the team's official site:
"We have carefully reviewed the film of our match against Portland last night and I can safely say that the level of refereeing was absolutely below the standards of what is required for a MLS match and completely unacceptable. First, the red card given to Thierry Henry was inexplicable. There was no violent conduct on his part whatsoever and this decision was made by a linesman who was more than half a field away. Second, in any soccer game, there is no way that one team can draw 20 more fouls than the other team, especially in a match where one team drew just five fouls. I have never seen this occur in my 30 years in the game.
We are aware that U.S. Soccer and MLS are working hard to improve the officiating in this country and we support those efforts wholeheartedly. However, if we want to continue increasing the level of play, we cannot let these types of refereeing performances occur. We look forward to speaking with the League to appeal Thierry's automatic red card suspension and expect that it will be rescinded so that he is available for our match Thursday in Seattle."
A poll on MLSsoccer.com shows that more than 85 percent of readers agree with Soler that a red card for what Henry did was just plain wrong. But in a season that has already had heavy criticism for the league going soft on a rash of horror tackles that have caused devastating injuries to some of its top players, it almost seems to fit the league's sometimes bizarre logic that a pat on the head would actually be considered violent conduct and get one of MLS's biggest stars an automatic ban.
After seeing this, Davey Becks will now be far more careful about where he directs his Zoolander stares out of fear that it too could get him sent off for violent conduct.
- Thierry Henry
- Adam Moffat