April 17, 2013
Juninho is dismissed after kicking the ball in frustration at Nielsen
By Michael Lewis
|Juninho: "I was trying to rush him a little bit. I felt that the goalkeeper exaggerated on his reaction a lot and it didn't hit near the face."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- The timing could not have been worse.
After enduring frustrating evening of trying to put a free kick on target, Juninho finally fired the ball at Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen from point-blank range a minute into stoppage time of the Red Bulls' 1-0 loss on Wednesday.
The only problem was that it was not during the run of play, came out of frustration and was rather unexpected. Nielsen, who was hit in the upper part of his chest, fell in pain to the Red Bull Arena ground.
The Red Bulls' central midfielder was given his marching orders by referee Allen Chapman -- as in a red card.
"I was a little frustrated on the goalkeeper who was delaying the game a lot," Juninho said through a translator, Red Bulls technical director Ricardo Campos. "I was trying to rush him a little bit. I felt that the goalkeeper exaggerated on his reaction a lot and it didn't hit near the face."
Juninho said he was trying to send Nielsen a message because he felt the veteran goalkeeper was time wasting as the game wound down..
"The message was to speed up the game," he said. "I agree that maybe I should not have done it the way I handled it. But the message was the ball was there and he was kind of delaying every time the ball would go towards him, he would let the ball would go by and go fetch another ball. It was a little frustrating. I lost my head a little bit."
Juninho said he felt the communication he has experienced with game officials has not helped his cause.
"The communication that I have had with the refs has been a little bit difficult just because of the language barrier," he said. "I feel that refs have been a little bit tougher on players who have a little bit more name just to try to impose themselves on certain players."
When Nielsen went down, Juninho said he realized the inevitable was going to happen.
"I knew when the goalkeeper fell to the ground and the referee rushed over that I would probably get a card," he said. "I am not happy about the card. It's an unfortunate event, but it's also part of the game.
The card meant Juninho will miss at least the Red Bulls' home game against the New England Revolution on Saturday, although he hinted it could be more.
"I don't know how many games I'm going to get as far as a suspension goes," he said. "It wasn't a good feeling. It wasn't my first card, but I hope it will be the last one."
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke might not have necessarily liked what Juninho had done, but he certainly understood why he did it.
"Heís a competitive person and I certainly know that sometimes emotions get the most of you," he said. "Of course Iím going to speak to him, but he is a total team player and perhaps a little bit out of his character. But, like I said, heís an emotional person. He wants to win and he let his emotions get the best of him. Itís happened to me hundreds of times, happened to many of these players. It has nothing to do with the result to be honest with you."
Between now and Saturday, Petke will have to pick a replacement for Juninho. The candidates include Tim Cahill and right midfielder Eric Alexander, who has played at central midfield. He also mentioned rookies Michael Bustamante and Ian Christianson.
The 38-year-old Juninho joined the Red Bulls as one of the best free kick specialists in the world. He has yet to find the back of the net with one of his patented spot kicks, although his corner kick set up a New York goal in the 3-3 opening tie at the Portland Timbers. On Wednesday night, most of Juninho's free kicks never reached their intended target. Many of his attempts -- most were from long range -- were low and bounded off a defensive wall.
If Petke was worried about Juninho's not scoring off a free kick, he wasn't letting anyone know.
"Listen, Juninho is one of the best free kick specialists in the world," he said. "I'm not going to put my comment on what I think about his free kicks. I think that his service has been unbelievable. It's only a matter of time before the first one goes in."
One thing is certain: Juninho won't be able to score off of one until the Toronto FC road encounter on April 27, at least earliest, because of his red card.