Independent review panel rescinds suspensions for Michael Harrington, Je-Vaughn Watson

Portland defender Michael Harrington couldn't believe it when referee Sorin Stoica showed him a red card during the 2-1 defeat at FC Dallas on Saturday. Harrington received backing for his stance when an independent review panel overturned his suspension on Thursday.

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Portland defender Michael Harrington and FC Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson are eligible to feature this weekend after an independent review panel overturned their dismissals in FCD’s 2-1 victory over the Timbers on Saturday.

The panel unanimously concluded the ejections for violent conduct were not warranted and rescinded both the one-match suspensions and the associated fines for the incident. In order to overturn any suspension on appeal, the panel must fulfill two criteria, per MLS regulations: (1) it must find the referee did not apply the Laws of the Game correctly and (2) it must unanimously determine the sanction applied does not fit the offense. 

In this particular case, the panel exerted its discretion wisely. At the time of the dismissals, there was little evidence to indicate how and why the two players were expelled in the 40th minute. Need proof? Just watch the highlights:

The decision to restore both players to their respective squads for the weekend matters a great deal to both teams. Instead of scrambling to find alternatives to replace important figures, Portland and FC Dallas can name their preferred starters and focus on other areas of the field ahead of their critical matches.

Harrington has started the past 52 matches for the Timbers. His steady presence at left back provides a touchstone in defense. His absence presented a potential concern with the lack of depth at fullback: veteran midfielder Jack Jewsbury operates as the usual right back, while Jamaican international Alvas Powell serves as the primary cover. Neither of those players functions naturally on the left side. Harrington’s reprieve ensures the Timbers will have one of their key components available ahead of the derby against Seattle on Saturday.

Watson plays a critical role in FCD’s midfield calculus at the moment. The injuries to Andrew Jacobson and Adam Moffat leave Oscar Pareja a bit short for choices in that department, though Victor Ulloa acquitted himself well against the Timbers at the weekend. The prospect of including Watson in the midfield trio alongside the returning Hendry Thomas (back after serving a suspension) and in-form schemer Mauro Díaz should strengthen FCD’s midfield ahead of the visit to Houston on Saturday night.

In the end, the independent review panel rectified the concerns created by an overeager assistant referee and the rash response to a run-of-the-mill conflict. The decision to absolve Harrington and Watson of their misdeeds represents a prudent step by the panel and ensures both teams will feel no further harm from those red cards heading into the weekend.