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An Elbow, Carlos Ruiz And The Interpretation Of Rule 12

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After posting my review of Carlos Ruiz's debut with the Philadelphia Union, there was a lot of discussion amongst readers and staff alike as to what Ruiz's proper 'punishment' should have been after his elbow to the face of Houston Dynamo defender Andrew Hainult.

Dynamo broadcast Glenn Davis believes that Ruiz should have received a red card based upon prior infractions that the Guatemalan striker has picked up over his career. Ruiz is notorious for his highly aggressive, and sometimes reckless, play. When I called into Davis' soccer show today, we talked about Ruiz's elbow and his very late kick on USMNT (and Everton) goalkeeper Tim Howard in a World Cup qualifier between the US and Guatemala (which can be seen at the 4:38 mark of the linked video here). Davis is pretty adamant that a yellow card, while justified, was not enough for Ruiz.

I believed the same as Davis when I originally posted the article. Then I reviewed FIFA's Rule 12 and FIFA's Official Interpretation of Rule 12. That's when I changed my mind and thought that the challenge on the ball was only "careless," which would only result in an "indirect freekick" with no caution.

A referee, one of my friends who is certified by USSF for Region 1 match play (up to USL PDL in his case), gives his take: "Ruiz went up for the challenge, on the ball in a way that involved an unnatural movement that gained an unfair advantage. That is the definition of a reckless challenge, which is punishable by a caution - yellow card. The reason for that yellow card would be listed as unsporting behavior. It's not a red card offense. If the elbow was deemed intentional, which in this case I feel was not the case, then it would have warranted a red for striking a player."

Here's the play (skipped to 2:24 for the incident):


What do you think? Give your opinion and analysis below.