Behold: a new, weekly segment on UnionFanTV called Fifty-Fifty of the Week, where we re-examine controversial and overlooked moments in the week’s matches, and make a case to view them in a different light.
For those unversed in football terminology, a Fifty-Fifty ball, according to Soccer America, is “a loose ball, or a badly placed pass, that is as near to a player of one team as it is to a player of the opposing team, allowing both an equal chance of controlling it.”
Fifty-Fifty balls are provocative in nature. They call out for a player to make a split second decision in midst of the struggle unfolding on the pitch. More often than not, the end result of two players getting “stuck in” is a harsh challenge and/or a controversial call from a referee.
A Fifty-Fifty ball can go either way, which is the inspiration for this segment.
Each week we will take a closer look at a particular incident from the week’s match or matches that might have been overlooked by fans, or has since remained a controversial talking point.
Our hope is to spur conversations among fans and encourage them to view particular incidents in a separate light.
Now for the inaugural Fifty-Fifty of the Week.
Honest Haris (Versus DC United; June 24)
Haris Medunjanin’s admirable (and successful) appeal to referee, Sorin Stoica, to rescind the initial red card issued to DC United midfielder, Luciano Acosta, is my inaugural pick for Fifty-Fifty of the Week.
For context, as well as for anyone who might have missed the incident, Medunjanin (bless his Bosnian soul) lobbied for Sorin Stoica to take back the red card shown to Acosta, for allegedly kicking Medunjanin while he was lying on the ground.
According to Medunjanin, who was interviewed by The Philly Soccer Page following the match versus United on Saturday, Acosta approached Medunjanin just after the Argentine had been shown red, and insisted that he had not kicked the Bosnian.
Medunjanin corroborated Acosta’s claim, saying that he had not felt any extra contact, aside from the initial push. And being the class act that Haris is, the Union’s vice-captain took it upon himself to speak to Stoica.
Medunjanin informed Stoica that he had not felt that he had been kicked by Acosta, and urged that Stoica reconsider the ejection.
Stoica did, and a moment of rarity ensued. Acosta’s red card was rescinded, and the Argentine remained on the pitch, much to the chagrin of nearly everyone inside Talen Energy Stadium. Nearly everyone.
Acosta who, as replay shows, was as guilty as initially charged, must have been elated to escape the death sentence and avoid having to carry out his marching orders from Stoica.
Now before I dive in and make my case, I know what many of you are probably thinking:
Didn’t this unfold last week?
How can an incident that occurred last week be your inaugural Fifty-Fifty of the Week for this week?
Overlooked? How can anyone have missed that?
And how can anyone not applaud Haris’ honesty and professionalism?
Short answers to all of your questions: yes, because, crab fries, and I’ll tell you why.
P L A Y O F F S
It’s the Promised Land, according to Alejandro Bedoya and friends. It’s where the Philadelphia Union want to find themselves come this Fall.
Currently, the Union have 19 points to their name, and sit third from the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. Here’s a better look –– or, at least for visual purposes –– at the current table:
Notice that red line? Only teams above the crimson make the playoffs, and the Union happen to be under it, at the moment.
You may also notice one rival –– or whatever people call DC United these days –– who is currently breathing down the Union’s neck, sitting just a point back.
So, where am I going with all of this?
Had Fabrice-Jean Picault not bagged one in the Ol’ Onion Bag earlier in the contest –– mind you, he has sort of struggled with that recently –– then the Union, who were winless in three matches, would have been pushing 75 minutes without a goal, and forced to chase the match.
AGAINST AN EVEN FIELDED, EVEN MATCHED EASTERN CONFERENCE SIDE.
As we saw against New York in the Open Cup on Wednesday, the complexion of a match can easily be shifted.
Had the match been even at the time, there’s no telling how Stoica’s change of heart could have impacted the end result. It could have gave United enough momentum to push on for the winning goal, or at least enough to dig in for a draw.
A draw would have seen United stay ahead of us in the table.
Look, there’s no denying that Haris Medunjanin is a true professional, a class act, and a leader for the Philadelphia Union, among many other things. He has endeared himself to fans and has been a revelation, despite an underwhelming beginning to the Union’s season.
After Saturday, there’s certainly no denying Haris’ character.
But to be brutally honest (no pun intended) his honesty could very well have come back to haunt the Union later in the season, had United grabbed a crucial point or even poached all three.
Because at this point in the season, every match is a must win, especially matches against clubs in the Eastern Conference. Conference matches are six-pointers; they always are, and they always will be in this league.
The importance of such matches are elevated toward the middle of the season –– which the Union and the rest of Major League Soccer is rapidly approaching –– when clubs look to leapfrog each other in the table.
Now, I know I am bound to take some flak from this article; I understand there are fans who will disagree with my stance on the bizarre incident. Nevertheless, I welcome discussion with those who may disagree. After all, that is the hope for this segment.
Had the result been different, I think many fans would probably agree with me. That Honest Haris should focus on saving the Union’s season, before he lends a helping hand to another team in this league.
For the Philadelphia Union, seeing red is a good thing at this point in the year. As long as they’re looking down at it.