Updated Monday, April 30, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Photo credit: John Gress, Getty Images
UPDATE 1:56 p.m. -- According to the Fire, coach Frank Klopas and defender Jalil Anibaba will each be suspended for the team's next game. Klopas was dismissed by referee Michael Kennedy after the game and subsequent scuffle, and Anibaba received a red card for his role.
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Who knows when it really started?
Was Saturday's postgame scuffle just a result of a heavy sliding tackle by Chicago's Jalil Anibaba on Seattle's Leo Gonzalez as the final whistle blew? Was it because frustrations had piled up for the Fire with every missed opportunity and call/non-call that went against them?
Did the Sounders' continued dominance in the head-to-head rivalry play a part?
Either way, the postgame fisticuffs at Toyota Park have become a talking point for both fan bases. The league, as we've come to know this season, reviews every game, so I'm sure the disciplinary committee will take a long look at this one. I wouldn't be surprised if some punishment is announced sometime this week.
For our purposes, the action that ignited the pushing and shoving was Anibaba's tackle on Gonzalez. It came just moments after his potentially game-tying shot was hit right at Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. It was the last chance in Chicago's desperate attempts to find an equalizer. Was that relevant as a part of previously mentioned frustrations? It's hard to tell.
"I went in to make a play on the ball and it turned into a scuffle," Anibaba said. "It was a hard-fought match and emotions run high, but there was nothing malicious on either end. In the heat of the moment things are said, but again, it was not malicious -- it was just two teams competing hard."
Several Sounders took offense to the tackle. Quickly on the scene to confront Anibaba were, in no particular order, Marc Burch, Osvaldo Alonso, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Sammy Ochoa, Brad Evans and Jeff Parke.
"It's the end of the game, 90 minutes, and there was what looked to us (like a bad tackle)," said Evans. "We're up 2-1 and we're going to defend our team."
Gonzalez, the recipient of the tackle, was actually trying to play peacemaker.
Alonso and Ochoa got the first shoves in on Anibaba, as can be seen on the KONG broadcast. Ochoa got in a couple more, including a pretty heavy one, as an assistant referee tried to settle things. At that time, Alonso was intercepted by Chicago's Marco Pappa and Dan Gargan. Hurtado came to Alonso's aid and things started to calm down, a little bit at least, as more teammates came over.
As everyone looked to be walking back to the other side of the field, toward the benches and locker rooms, Ochoa and Parke continued to have words with Anibaba.
Elsewhere, tempers flared again. Evans and Pappa got into a little confrontation at about this time and had to be restrained, with referee Michael Kennedy in the middle of it. Evans was held back by a couple teammates, but it didn't end there as he kept jawing, apparently toward Pappa.
Chicago's Dominic Oduro appeared to give Evans a light shove, which didn't have much to it, and as the camera shot widened you can see Pappa's left hand near Evans' face as the Sounders midfielder recoils -- apparently from some kind of impact.
"It was just a scuffle -- everybody was involved," Evans told me after the game. "Before I knew it, I catch a little glancing slap in the face."
I had heard coach Sigi Schmid mention after the game that one of the Sounders got hit in the face. Turns out it was Evans.
"(He's a) good player, but he just got a little too heated up," Evans said. "You've got to keep your cool there. No matter what, you should be better than that and smarter than that. In that situation you're just talking smack -- that's it. I must've said something wrong and really ticked him off. But he caught me when I wasn't looking."
A number of Sounders appeared to see the contact as David Estrada went to remove Evans from the situation and Hurtado and Burch went to confront Pappa. Hurtado came in quite aggressively and made some contact with Pappa's neck, it appeared.
Parke also came over with some words for Pappa.
But that about marked the ends of the issues as people from both benches had arrived to settle things down.
UPDATE 9:44 a.m. -- According to the league website, Anibaba was issued a red card after the mess for "fighting."
Both coaches were asked about the scuffle afterward.
"I really didn't see anything that was going on," said Chicago's Frank Klopas. "I know there were some arguments, I have to see the tape. I didn't see anything else happen. I know that there were probably words exchanged, things that happen normally in many matches that you see. But I really didn't see anything else that the players did wrong. I'd have to see the tape, but I didn't see anything more than words exchanged."
Schmid said he didn't know all of what happened.
"I'm pretty far away," he continued. "I couldn't run out there, I tried to sprint, but it didn't help me. I saw that (Philadelphia coach Peter) Nowak got fined (for going onto the field during a scuffle) so I didn't want to get out there too quickly. I wanted to wait for the melee to die down. I think it was a pretty aggressive tackle right at the end of the game from Anibaba on Leo Gonzalez. It was an aggressive tackle and obviously it was a frustrating game for Chicago because they had some great opportunities and they had some good chances and it was one of those days where it just didn't go in for them. I think that frustration all came out in the end a little bit. Obviously there's accusations in there. Some of their guys probably saying our guys pushed them. One of our guys said he got punched. The referees will have to have a look at it and look at the videotape."
To the point of the Fire being frustrated, defender Arne Friedrich offered this when asked about the scuffle: "The game was tough and it was pretty close, so everyone was emotional."
Added Klopas: "The players put a lot into the game. We were playing at home; there were some emotions at the end, but we just have to control that. At times, the referees have to make the right calls and not let it get out of hand. The guys put a lot into the game and they pushed, and you could obviously see that. They wore their emotions and passion to play on their sleeves, but you always have to be under control."
Later in the postgame press conference, as indicated in the quote sheet, Klopas was asked about the officiating and if the game was called fairly.
"I don't want to complain with the refereeing because it all evens out," he said. "But you look at Grazzini who is a playmaker, and he probably has the most yellow cards on our team. You figure that one out. ... He gets kicked the most and he never gets a call. It's not easy for other teams to get the ball but... it is what it is. You have to move on and sometimes things even out, but sometimes you feel that there are fouls that they do miss, and they call the second one out of reaction. I think those things even out, but when you look at all the games we've played, Grazzini is probably the guy that has been kicked the most, but he's the one that ends up with the yellow cards."
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An interesting finish to a compelling game. What did you make of it all? Think discipline could be in store for Anibaba, Pappa, Evans, Ochoa or Hurtado?