There were parts of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Montreal that looked quite good for the visiting Chicago Fire.
Expected to sit back and catch the Impact on the counter, the Fire took the attack to the home side at times in the second half with Jeff Larentowicz and Daniel Paladini both providing dangerous opportunities.
“I think in the first half we came out pretty sharp and put them under some pressure and got some shots on goal,” Larentowicz told Chicago-Fire.com. “We were able to go forward in the first half. Towards the end of the half, we took our foot off the gas a bit but we knew we had 45 minutes left in the game.”
RELEASE: Shorthanded Fire fall 2-0 in Montreal
After the break though, Montreal began to put the pedal down and took advantage of a moment of brilliance from Andres Romero to put the side ahead in the 57th minute.
The strike was nice but the real drama and definite turning point of the game came six minutes later.
Impact midfielder Andrea Pisanu was played towards the box, one step ahead of Larentowicz who was in hot pursuit.
WATCH: Larentowicz Sees Red in the 63rd Minute
As the Italian midfielder edged closer to goal, you could see Larentowicz pull up so as to not make contact on the edge of the area.
Despite his best efforts, Larentowicz landed the slightest of touches on the back of Pisanu’s leg who fell forward into the box as Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson came to collect the ball.
“Sean is coming out and I think he knows it so he slows up and I’m straight behind him,” he explained.
“I know there’s no way I’m going to get to the ball without making contact so I slow up and I put my hands in the air to make it clear that I’m not going for the ball.
“Unfortunately his trailing leg hits my leg and I think he realizes he’s not getting the ball as Sean comes out but our legs made contact and he went down.”
Referee Fotis Bazakos quickly whistled and showed Larentowicz a straight red card for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, though Johnson appeared that he would have reached the ball with or without the contact and Austin Berry was also in the vicinity of the play.
The Impact were even initially awarded a penalty kick before one of the assistant referees pointed to the foul occurring outside of the penalty area.
Asked if Bazakos explained the call, Larentowicz said the fallout from Johnson’s follow up challenge prevented him from doing so.
“He had another situation on his hands through the ruckus of players that were in the box. He called a PK but then he didn’t call a PK and sent me off but he didn’t have any words to explain himself to me.”
Asked his thoughts about Bazakos’ decision to send Larentowicz off post-game, Fire head coach Frank Klopas said, “I think it was a terrible call and then came the second goal as a result of this decision.”
Marco Di Vaio drove in the final dagger in the 76th minute when he took down a looping ball at the top of the area and hit a low shot that tucked just inside Sean Johnson’s left post.
In the end, Larentowicz’s heavily disputed sending off will be the memorable moment of this match.
Major League Soccer does allow a structure by which officials can be asked about decisions following games through a designated pool reporter but Bazakos' crew declined to comment following the match.
The club has not decided whether or not to appeal the red card but at time of posting, Chicago-Fire.com has been told that the club's technical staff is evaluating the options of a potential appeal of the decision.
A full run-down on the league’s procedures for appealing a red card can be found here.
There is precedent for a red card being overturned this season as Chivas USA successfully appealed the ejection of defender Joaquin Velasquez after an odd series of events in a match vs. the LA Galaxy back in March.
Whether the Independent Review Panel would deem Larentowicz’s situation similar remains to be seen.