Last Tuesday, the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City played a chippy Open Cup quarterfinal that saw Luis Garrido red-carded after a half hour in a match that the men in orange controlled early on. It was fiercely competitive but one incident that didn't receive on-field discipline stood out to SKC and Dynamo fans alike.
In the 67th minute, Dom Dwyer began to set up for a free kick outside the box. Ricardo Clark was having a discussion with referee Ted Unkel, who had his back turned to the mass of players behind him. Brad Davis and Roger Espinoza are talking, surrounded by Dynamo players and out of Unkel's view. And then this happened:
Espinoza takes a swing at Brad Davis' head. Davis either flinches or fully receives the contact in what appears to be a punch. The players surrounding him redirect Unkel's attention but he's already missed the incident. The two players were called to the side in which Unkel strongly emphasized for them to cut it out.
After the referee walked away, the two players resumed arguing and were given a yellow card each to stop the discussion. No further discipline was given during the match. It even appeared as if Espinoza might get away with it in a time that tearing up a referee's book warrants Open Cup and MLS suspensions.
But we reached out to US Soccer's Neil Buethe and have been told that the Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel will be reviewing the incident in the coming days. That should spell trouble for Espinoza who, despite being outside the referee's view, can't escape the cameras pointed at the field. We'll keep you updated as to whether Espinoza will receive punishment for the punch.