U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann might miss the Gold Cup final. (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A dominant win in a tournament semifinal is generally enough to make any coach grin. But U.S. national team Coach Juergen Klinsmann grew so incensed in the closing minutes of his team's 3-1 Gold Cup victory over Honduras on Wednesday that Costa Rican referee Walter Quesada sent him off with three minutes to play.
Whether Klinsmann will be back on the sidelines for Sunday's final with Panama will be determined by a CONCACAF disciplinary committee, which will review Quesada's post-match report and issue a ruling by Friday.
But the committee may be examining the wrong man. If anyone's conduct in the final minutes of the match deserved sanction, it was Quesada's.
With the U.S. firmly in control of the match, leading 3-1 deep in the second half, the frustrated Hondurans grew more and more physical, repeatedly assaulting -- fouling is too gentle a word -- Klinsmann's players from behind without sanction from the officials. As it became obvious that Quesada couldn't, or wouldn't, take action to stop the dirty play, Klinsmann began to worry about players being injured in a game that was no longer in doubt.
"It seemed like they flipped a switch a little bit after the 3-1 and they started coming after us a little bit," Landon Donovan said of Honduras. "You don’t want to see that. And you’re hoping in that moment the refs really protect you. Because their tournament was over but we’ve got a game to play Sunday."
Klinsmann, already irate, finally snapped when U.S. captain DaMarcus Beasley was mugged from behind right in front of the U.S. bench in the 87th minute. Klinsmann slammed a ball to the turf, then screamed at Quesada, the coach's face growing red. At that point, the official stopped the match and ordered Klinsmann off the field.
"It was a reaction out of frustration. The fouls started adding up though out the last half-hour. I just kind of overboiled," Klinsmann said, punctuating his comments with an uncomfortable chuckle.
"Obviously you shouldn’t then kind of throw the ball on the ground. I apologize for that reaction. It wasn't against the referee. It was just frustration.”
If Klinsmann is ruled ineligible for the final with Panama it would hardly set a precedent. The last time the U.S. and Panama met in a Gold Cup final, in 2005, U.S. Coach Bruce Arena had to watch from the stands after earning a red card in a semifinal victory over -- you guessed it -- Honduras.
Klinsmann's players, especially Beasley, lauded their coach for having their back, even if it means he'll be in the crowd Sunday.
“That would not be good for us,” Donovan said of a possible suspension. “We’re very hopeful that that’s not the case. You never want to see a player or a coach suspended for a final so hopefully whoever reviews that takes that into consideration.