Rather than debating whether or not Andy Najar actually intended to hit the referee with the ball, let's instead make sure that we realize that the whole thing was totally unnecessary.
Andy Najar certainly had a good point in disagreeing with referee Jair Marrufo when he was given a yellow card for a tackle on Joel Lindpere. The young D.C. United fullback was practically running shoulder-to-shoulder with the New York Red Bulls midfielder, and Lindpere went down very easily. Calling a foul on the play seemed questionable to me. Pulling a yellow card seemed extraordinarily excessive.
But so was Najar's reaction.
"For a fact, I know it wasn't intentional", Dejan Jakovic told me after the game. "He turned around and threw the ball, he didn't even see where he threw it and unfortunately it hit the ref." Najar too was apologetic but still denied that his intention was to strike Marrufo.
The video doesn't seem to agree with the account the United players are giving of the incident, but I still feel like we should take Najar at his word that he meant no harm. If that's true, then he either has terrible aim or terrible luck. But that doesn't forgive him for hanging his team out to dry, forcing them to play with only 10 men for the remainder of the match, and to play without him in New York.
The first issue is Najar's body language. He's already mildly dissenting just by walking away while holding the ball. His facial expression is one of anger when he throws the ball, and he doesn't just throw it lightly. And he certainly doesn't apologize afterwards.
The second issue is way more important though. The second issue is that it didn't need to happen. Not at all. There was no reason for it. If Najar hadn't thrown the ball towards Marrufo, we wouldn't be spending any time debating whether he meant to or not.
As such, I've created a list of alternative courses of action that could have been taken. If Najar had done any of the following, United would have finished the match with 11 men, and would still have Najar for Wednesday's match at Red Bull Arena.
- Don't pick up the ball
- Drop the ball at your feet instead of throwing it
- Roll it to Marrufo instead of throwing it
- Toss it higher into the air towards Marrufo instead of throwing it directly at his stomach with velocity
- Say "Heads up!" when throwing it
- Immediately put up your hand in apology after throwing it to show Marrufo that hitting him wasn't the intent
- Throw the ball towards the sideline
- Throw the ball literally anywhere else
- Take a pin out of your sock and deflate the ball
- Take a pen out of your sock and draw a face on the ball
- Hand the ball to Marrufo
- Head the ball to Marrufo
- Call for a substitution
- Call Jaime Moreno and ask him for advice
- Score 100 goals and retire
- Coach the D.C. United U-23 Team
- Okay I'm getting off track. Throw the ball at Brandon McDonald.
- Throw the ball at Nick DeLeon
- Throw the ball at Kurt Morsink (Please do this!)
- Juggle the ball
- Blow your nose on the ball
- Get one of your brothers to throw a ball at Marrufo instead
- Put the ball under your shirt and pretend that you're pregnant, then drop the ball out of your shirt and pick it up and cradle it in your arms.
We're having a little fun here, but the point remains. There are thousands of other things Najar could have done that wouldn't have earned him a red card. Let's try one of those next time, okay?
Oh, and if you have any other ideas to add to the list, please feel free to do so in the comments.