Well, shoot... The Rapids went into their week 1 encounter with the defending Supporters' Shield champions looking to make a statement. In many ways, they did just that. A determined defensive effort--mixed with the occasional flash of attacking prowess--showed the 2014 Rapids are still no pushover-fixture. Unfortunately, to everyone not wearing burgundy (and even some who do), the game will only be remembered for the controversial 71st minute penalty awarded by Alan Kelly.
The call comes from a lofted ball played into the box by Vicente Sanchez to Marvin Chavez. As Chavez positions himself to win the ball off his chest, the on-rushing Jamison Olave bumps into the back of the Rapids newly acquired midfielder. Chavez falls to the ground and, after the whistle is blown, proceeds to writhe in pain on the ground. Was it a soft penalty? Of course. Did Chavez do everything he could to sell it afterward? Absolutely. Was it a blown call? No. Here's why:
Go to the video below of the penalty call and keep your eye on Chavez as he comes into frame, while Sanchez evades a challenge from Roy Miller. As Chavez makes his darting run into the box, his eyes never leave the ball. Even as he positions himself, he doesn't do the typical reaching behind to feel where the unsuspecting victim is, an all too common move among "habitual divers." Then comes Olave. Poor, 210 pounds of hard muscle, Olave. He must have felt like a character on Law and Order: "I didn't mean to, honestly! It all happened so fast!"
When it comes down to it, Chavez established position to win the ball and was knocked off of it. It seems like a light touch from Olave, but if a wrecking ball nudges a stack of wooden blocks (sorry Marvin) ever-so-slightly, someone's still shouting, "Jenga!" in the end. Had the play happened in midfield, no one would have given a second thought to a foul being called. How often in this sport have we seen two identical challenges, yet only one gets the whistle while the other one happened inside the penalty area. A foul is a foul regardless of where it occurs, or at least it should be. On Saturday, that's exactly what happened.
Alas, this is a call to be debated ad nauseam where neither viewpoint is declared the outright truth. And so with that, I leave it up to you, our esteemed readers, to weigh in with your thoughts on what is sure to be the first of many controversial calls the Rapids will encounter this season. Voting is now open.