Let's just get this out of the way right up front: Kaka got sent off for what some called a stomp on Javier Morales last night in Real Salt Lake's 1-1 draw with Orlando City.
Soren Stoica, head referee for the evening, showed Kaka the card only minutes before halftime. And while some — including Orlando City officially through their coach Adrian Heath's decision to appeal the sending off — think that's an egregiously bad call, I'm not one of them. In fact — that's a tacked-on, justified red card in my book.
That's apparently an outrageous belief, but bear with me here. First, let's watch the action. Here's a good angle. There's another angle below it.
Now that you've seen the evidence we have available, let's talk about it piece-by-piece.
1. The foul
Disputing this part's going to be hard. Kaka fouls Javier Morales. He doesn't just foul Javier Morales, though — he takes his forearm and shoves Morales. I don't care if Morales sold the call or something inane like that — that's a foul, and if you don't think that was a foul, you should probably get off this boat now.
2. The stomp
Alright, so — let's get started. A few things I'm considering when I look at this call (and thank goodness I'm not a referee, because I only really made up my mind after watching a few times).
a) Kaka is looking down, directly at his feet.
b) Kaka has just fouled Morales.
c) Kaka initially looks like he might be trying to play the ball after Javi has fallen.
d) Kaka steps on Morales. (Indisputable, obviously.)
And a few things that I'll use as evidence, too.
i) Kaka is a former World Player of the Year and has very good ball control.
Okay, maybe it's just the one. See — I re-watched the first half looking specifically for some inciting incident or something, but really, there wasn't anything visible on the TV feed. There wasn't a visible argument. They didn't even spend most of their time anywhere near each other.
But right before the shove, Kaka's pulling back on Morales, and that's what leads up to the shove and the stomp. So let's watch that (although this one doesn't have sound. Sorry, I guess.)
So yeah, here we have Kaka pulling back Morales, then he swipes at his head (which — hey, that's violent conduct too, right? Right?), then he shoves him to the ground, then he steps on him.
So let's see here — with those things in mind, what are we supposed to assume? That Kaka accidentally stepped on Morales? That he, well-meaning enough, was just trying to play the ball? Or — and bear with me here — are we to believe that Kaka, in a moment of frustration, purposefully steps on a player. Or, if you'd rather, "purposefully avoids not stepping on the player."
Because here's the thing: Whether or not Kaka's deliberate, ultimate goal was to step on a Javier Morales, the fact of the matter is that he did. He did so by purposeful action, whether that's trying to play the ball or not. He did so looking directly where he was stepping.
Did he have an option that wouldn't result in Morales being trod upon? Well, yes, and that's true for both sides of the equation.
In the aftermath of all this, people have been harping on about Kaka's long record of games without getting a red card, which is all irrelevant. Whether or not he's a "dirty" player or a violent player has no bearing on this single incident. He gets no good behavior reward here. And you know what else really doesn't matter? How many red cards referee Soren Stoica has shown. Seriously. It's meaningless when you evaluate a one-off incident.
Here's the best part. Adrian Heath, Orlando City coach, says he'll appeal the decision. And you know what? I wouldn't be surprised if the league rescinded that red, and somehow Kaka's legacy can live untarnished.