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Should there have been more bookings in Atlanta United vs. NYCFC first leg?

While Martinez, Villalba, and Remedi were given yellow cards on Sunday, the bigger story might be the cards that weren’t awarded

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Atlanta United FC at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever you play on a pitch the size of a parking space, players are bound to collide. However, on Sunday, Atlanta United and NYCFC decided to up the ante and go all CONCACAF on each other for 90+ minutes. The result? Leandro Gonzalez Pirez has a gash on his leg, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi broke his wrist, Remedi’s hand is wrapped, and everyone else is sporting some evidence of a cage match. The teams combined for 39 fouls and 5 yellow cards. Things…escalated quickly.

While you can expect numerous fouls due to the size of NYCFC’s pitch, what was unexpected was the inconsistency in how the fouls were called.

Lesser fouls resulted in discipline. Remedi was awarded a yellow when he stopped a NYCFC counter with a foul. It was his first foul and only the 7th minute. The yellow card seemed harsh for that particular foul in that part of the game. As a fanbase that sees this happen to Almiron multiple times each week with no discipline awarded, the ref’s decision seemed unwarranted.

Later in the game, Tito was awarded a yellow three minutes after coming on, on his first challenge of the game, and Josef was given a yellow for a weak foul in the opponent’s half. In any other game, I would have felt that the ref was just trying to keep control, awarding quick yellows to set a precedence…but...

There were three other fouls that were bad. Real bad. The sum of which only resulted in one yellow card. Let’s take a look.

Below, you’ll see a clip where Alex Ring deliberately hits LGP with his studs. Today, LGP is sporting a nice gash for his efforts. The ref awarded a yellow, but it’s interesting that this wasn’t reviewed further. I’ve seen red cards given for less intent. Ring should consider himself lucky after this challenge.

Next, we see another NYCFC foul that avoided the worst potential punishment. David Villa goes reckless into an attempt on a ball that Garza easily wins. It’s arguable that Villa wasn’t intending contact, but his studs are obviously up and that should’ve earned a red.

Finally, being transparent and taking off the rose colored glasses, we have Leandro Gonzalez Pirez going WWE on a set piece. He begins by taking a defender out with a hand to the throat and follows with an elbow as he tries to win the ball. LGP was the Man of the Match on Sunday and is critical to Atlanta’s success in the home leg of this round. The Five Stripes are fortunate their center-back wasn’t sent off for this exchange.

With Geiger reffing on Sunday and Gunter on VAR, rest assured that Battle Royale we saw in Yankee Stadium won’t be allowed this weekend. But Jeff Laretnowicz told media at training Wedensday that despite the draconian yellow card accumulation rules in place for the MLS Cup Playoffs, the team will still play with an edge.

You have to be careful. I think you don’t want to do anything stupid obviously—throwing the ball away, yelling at the ref or getting a yellow not during the run of play,” said Larentowicz. “But you can’t give up the aggressive nature that you’re playing the game with. You have to leave it to the referee. Obviously if you’re on a yellow, you have to be careful. Four games is difficult to not pick up two yellow cards in high intensity matches, but you really can’t change.”

Here’s hoping the Five Stripes go through and we don’t lose players for the Conference Finals due to discipline.