It’s a rare thing for a player to be booed at home while an opposing player walks off the field to cheers.
But last night in an international friendly at PPL Park, Philadelphia Union reserve Matt Kassel managed to accomplish such a feat.
In the 27th minute, with the Union trailing Stoke City of the English Premier League by a pair of goals, Kassel went in for a hard tackle on Stoke City winger Brek Shea. Kassel was shown a yellow card and booed the next couple of times he touched the ball, while Shea limped off the field as “U-S-A” chants rained down from the PPL Park seats.
Here’s why: just two days ago, Shea had become one of the few US soccer players to ever score a tournament-winning goal when he netted the only goal in a 1-0 win over Panama in the Gold Cup final. Then, the rising American star met up with his Stoke City teammates in Philly, scored another goal, and promptly sustained what could be a serious knee injury in a meaningless exhibition.
You can see the video of Shea's goal at the 29:45 mark and would be able to see the injury at around the 37:55 mark if not for an ad for a 50/50 raffle. (This seems suspicious but I’m told it’s a coincidence. The stream was taken directly from what was shown on the video board since there was no broadcast and it just happened that the 50/50 ad went up right before the tackle.)
As you might expect, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes did not handle it well, saying he expected Shea to be out “for a number of weeks at least,” calling it “a very, very poor challenge by the boy,” and even calling into question Kassel’s motives.
“You don’t expect that,” Hughes said. “It’s a friendly game. You need to protect your fellow professional. And I don’t think the guy did that. I don’t know who he was. Maybe he was trying to make a name for himself. I don’t know. He went the wrong way about it.”
Hughes’ quotes perhaps seem a little bit harsh but the timing couldn’t have been worse, considering Shea was coming off such a huge goal and was heading into the English Premier League season with a lot of confidence.
To his credit, Shea handled it relatively well, admitting he was “pretty upset” but also making sure to say he’s not mad at Kassel. Shea’s best quote after the game: “When I was walking off, he apologized. And I said, ‘Shit happens.’”
As for Kassel, he expressed a lot of remorse after the game and apologized again to Shea. But the player previously best known for sorta sharing a name with an NFL quarterback is getting absolutely hammered online – by US Soccer and Stoke City fans – as you can see from the comments in the article I wrote for MLSsoccer.com.
Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that Shea’s injury is not that serious. But no matter what, Kassel should learn from this and not make such hard tackles in exhibitions, even if he is trying to prove he deserves more playing time.
Or he could just take teammate Amobi Okugo’s advice and tackle players that aren’t, you know, American heroes coming off championship-winning goals.
Laughed Okugo, "We all made fun of Kassel - like why aren’t you trying to take out someone like [Honduran Wilson] Palacios or someone else that’s in CONCACAF?”