The suspensions handed out to Fire coach Frank Klopas and defender Jalil Anibaba by the Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee were reluctantly accepted on Tuesday. Still, the whole scenario was a strange one.
Neither Klopas nor Anibaba anticipated disciplinary action after Saturdays 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Park. Anibaba didnt learn hed received a red card until Sunday night.
"I found out from our PR personnel yesterday," he said following Tuesdays training session in Bridgeview. "He asked if Id been told I received a red card. I said no, but we checked on line and they said I got one for fighting. Actually, I heard three different things -- one was for fighting, one was for starting a fight and one was for the challenge. So, Im not too sure."
According to MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, Anibaba drew his first-ever MLS booking for his hard challenge on Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez in the seventh minute of second half stoppage time. A scuffle involving most players on both teams followed as referee Michael Kennedy whistled the game to an end.
"It was a bit unprofessional that I had to find out about my red card elsewhere (and not from a match official)," said Anibaba. "But, at the end of the day, it is what it is. Emotions were high. Both teams were trying to protect their own players. There was nothing malicious from any party. Its just unfortunate that we got the short end of the stick."
Klopas joined in the melee and was dismissed by Kennedy for "abusive language toward an official," according to the game report. Klopas also didnt know about the dismissal from Kennedy until long after the Sounders arrived back in Seattle.
"I was a little surprised, but I respect the decision the league has made," said Klopas. "Weve got to move forward. Thats all I can say."
The Fire considered appealing the suspensions, which will keep Anibaba out of Friday nights road match against Chivas USA in Los Angeles and Klopas off the sidelines.
"Theres an appeal process, but for me to appeal, what for?" said Klopas. "There was a lot of emotion in the game, and I said some things to the referee. Unfortunately it was in the heat of the moment, and I cant take that back."
Seattle escaped suspensions for its part in the post-game activities, but forward Eddie Johnson was handed an undisclosed fine on Tuesday for an "inappropriate gesture" made toward fans as he left the field.
The Sounders, perhaps because they won, stayed calm for the most part during the melee. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid remained on the sidelines and told MLSsoccer.com that he went to Arne Friedrich, the Fires German defender, and asked him - in German, no less -- how hes been enjoying his stay in the U.S.
"He had this bewildered look on his face," said Schmid. "I figured Id try to take a little air out of the balloon."
Schmid also decided to have a post-game team meeting on the field, in front of a small band of Seattle fans who sat in one corner of Toyota Park. That gave the Fire players a chance to leave the field first and avert further confrontations between the clubs. Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said the scuffle was good for team bonding.
"Thats one of our rivals, Chicago is," said Evans. "It gets you fired up a little bit more."
Fire assistant coaches Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich will share coaching duties in Klopas absence on Friday, but Klopas will make the trip. He just wont be on the sidelines. Rookie Austin Berry will make his MLS debut as Anibabas replacement on the field.