The following incident occurred in the opening minutes of an MLS match between Real Salt Lake and New England Revolution on Independence Day 2011. The match finished 3—3.
In the 3rd minute, Referee Yader Reyes sent off Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers for what the Referee deemed to be DOGSO. Here are the freeze frames:
Real Salt Lake's Nat Borchers (red #6) connects with the ball and then New England Revolution's Benny Feilhaber (white #22) kicks Borchers' leg and falls over
And here is the Referee's position at the time of the incident:
The Referee's position at that moment of the incident should tell us that a decisive call would have been very tricky to make. Unless the Referee was 100% certain of what he saw, a penalty call and subsequent DOGSO decision would always be controversial. The Referee would have had to have had a clear and unobstructed view between the players and to be able to see the ball too.
Furthermore, the least that the AR could have done was to give assistance based on his view of the incident ... unless of course prior to the match the Referee had briefed his AR not to interfere with his decisions in the penalty area.
This means the players involved in the actual incident are the ones who most likely know what happened. Borchers should be commended for accepting the Referee's decision with good grace, calmness (in the face of incredulity) and little fuss. If we compare the behaviour of his teammate goalkeeper Nick Rimando, there is a marked difference between how these two players reacted to and accepted the Referee's decision.
Real Salt Lake's Nat Borchers (red) accepts the Referee's decision graciously, whereas goalkeeper Nick Rimando (black) does not
The other concerned party who knew what happened is New England Revolution forward Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber knows he dithered too long to take his shot, and because of that allowed Borchers the opportunity to sneak in and kick the ball from underneath him and up onto his face, which then went over the goal line for what should have been a goal kick. Feilhaber, by letting the Referee's wrong decision stand, is therefore guilty of dishonesty. He knew his opponent was wrongly being sent off, and did not say anything to keep things honest and fair. Isn't Fair Play meant to be encouraged? Apparently not.
Benny Feilhaber (white) sympathizes with Nat Borchers (red) but that's as far as he is willing to go in terms of "Fair Play"
NOTE: the prime example of recent times of Unfair Play is Thierry Henry's deliberate handball when France played Ireland in a crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier. At that time, Henry kept quiet so that his team would benefit from his deliberate unsporting act and only the day after, after being put under continuous media scrutiny, did Henry later admit to his unsporting behaviour and apologise for his deliberate handball (which didn't mean much, if you ask any Irish supporter).
Thierry Henry's deliberate handball which helped France qualify for the 2010 World Cup Finals at the expense of the Republic of Ireland (see link here)
Players who cheat and who deliberately allow a player to get sent off should be publicly reprimanded, and perhaps fined by their clubs, as a way to deal with unsporting behaviour that is out of the control of match officials. If FIFA and other competition organisers are serious about promoting Fair Play, then the culprits should be identified and then publicly named and shamed.
I was not able to watch the whole MLS match; however in spite of that, it is not difficult to sense that perhaps the Referee had lost a lot of credibility during the match as a result of that dubious decision. There was 6YC and 2RCs meted out in total.
The only silver lining from this incident was the gracious behaviour of Nat Borchers.