You could make a case that the key moment of the Houston Dynamo's 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Friday came in the 51st minute. After a hard collision between Danny Cruz and Timbers defender Mike Chabala, match referee Baldomero Toledo elected to give Cruz a yellow card for a reckless foul. Toledo's decision that the contact did not cross the line between a yellow and red card, not only kept the Dynamo with 11-men on the field, but it ensured Cruz was still in the game to unleash his wicked second goal.
How you feel about the foul and Toledo's call likely comes down to your team affiliation and much like Thierry Henry's red card on Saturday, there is room for interpretation. It looked dangerous but I don't think there was any maliciousness at all in the play and certainly no intent by Cruz to injure Chabala. Given Toldeo's track record you could have easily seen him give a red card but he held back.
USSF referees are given the following mental checklist to go through when determining the severity of a tackle and the proper punishment.
- Distance traveled, which helps determine the speed, and therefore the force of the challenge
- Whether an attempt was made to play the ball, which helps determine its aggressive nature
- The direction of the challenge
- The position of the feet at the time of the challenge
- The ability to play the ball.