Didier Drogba received his first MLS red card this weekend in a somewhat controversial fashion for his actions against DC United’s Marcelo Sarvas. It was determined by PRO referee, Ted Unkel, to be worthy of a straight red due to violent conduct, which is defined in the laws of the game (http://www.fifa.com/mm/Document/FootballDevelopment/Refereeing/02/79/92/44/Laws.of.the.Game.2016.2017_Neutral.pdf) as “when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball… regardless of whether contact is made.”
Sarvas initiated the sequence with Drogba by pressuring him for the ball from behind. On his way down, Drogba appears to throw an elbow on his way down to bring Sarvas falling to the pitch with him. The initial whistle may have been on the Sarvas challenge, which would have put Sarvas in a sticky situation since he already had a yellow card on the night, but Drogba lost his cool and retaliated. Unkel could not have been closer to the situation, as he was talking to Drogba while he kneed Sarvas in the back. The knee nudge was enough to warrant the straight red because the ball was not in play, and the rule clearly states that excessive force when not challenging the ball is unacceptable regardless of whether or not contact is made. Although the knee to the back was soft, the red was justified.
PRO has been under a lot of scrutiny this season by fans of both sides of many matches, but in this case, Unkel called it by the book.