The Jacksonville Armada looked to maintain their position atop the NASL as they hosted the upstart San Francisco Deltas. The Deltas are new boys to the NASL, and are financially backed by some of Silicon Valley’s deepest pockets. However, as mother’s everywhere say, “money does not buy class”.

The Antics of Pablo Dyego

After a hard clash with Armada midfielder Jack Blake, Pablo Dyego picked himself up and lunged in recklessly on a revenge challenge. A scrum ensued with lots of pushing and shoving. However, the ultimate result, after much deliberation between the officials (with the fourth official pointing to his back pocket), was a yellow card.

Dyego failed to endear himself further to the Jacksonville crowd a few minutes later. Beaten to a long ball by Armada center back Mechack Jerome, Dyego committed one of the most obvious dives in recent memory. After flailing around on the ground for a few moments the referee blew his whistle in accordance with head injury protocol.

The Referee as Psychologist

San Francisco could not stop themselves from having a chat with referee Mark Kadlecik. Every incident, however minor results in a mob of Delta players surrounding the officials. When Delta left back Kenny Teijsse climbed on Drew Beckie, leaving him in a heap, the Delta center forward Tommy Heinemann was already in the referee’s ear before play had been stopped.

Heinemann’s pestering was eventually rewarded. Following a fairly routine challenge Heinemann, along with two other Delta players marched up the referee. Heinemann was pointing at the referee repeatedly and screaming. After a few seconds Mark Kadlecik had enough, and Heinemann was show a yellow for dissent. He wanted another go at the referee but his teammates quickly intervened.

At one point Delta midfield Cristian Portilla stopped played to walk over and complain. Portilla believed that Armada midfielder Nicklas Maripuu handled the ball. However, when the referee did not make the call Portilla found it appropriate to remind him of his duties.

Unfortunately San Francisco’s repeatedly harassment of the referee did pay some dividends. Following a fair and legal tackle by the Armada’s J.C. Banks the Delta’s captain Nana Attakora sprinted downfield to push Banks while he was standing out of bands. Another shoving match happened, with Cristian Portilla jumping in the middle of it. Somehow, the end result of the second scrum was a yellow card of J.C. Banks. Nana Attakora was not punished for sprinting downfield to intentionally shove an out of touch player.

Yes, There is a Right Way to Play the Game

I am not referring to tactics, formations, or strategy. I’m referring to professionalism, class, and dignity. The Jacksonville Armada faced a team on Saturday night that possessed none of those qualities. For all their money and talent the San Francisco Deltas did not present themselves well to the Jacksonville crowd. The Deltas can call themselves whatever they would like, “bad boys”, “villains”, or even claim that they play with “attitude”. In reality they play the game like children without composure. They were professional only in the fact that they are paid to play the sport.

In every way that the Deltas were petulant children, the Armada players and staff were consummate professionals. Head coach Mark Lowry was composed on the sidelines despite the hysterics of the San Francisco bench. The Armada staff did not mob officials at every opportunity. Armada players did not have their hands in the air like the match was a religious service and the referee was a pastor.

The Reverse Fixture

The Armada will travel to San Francisco on May 19th to play the reverse fixture. If the officiating crew decides to show up, it is highly unlikely that the match will finish with 22 players on the field.

The NASL has yet to release a statement regarding the abhorrent officiating or any retroactive punishment for the kick to Kalen Ryden. The Armada and their fans will be hoping that on May 19th the Deltas feel like actually playing the game, rather than fighting and moaning.