C.D. Guadalajara has announced its squad for the second leg of its 2018 CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against the New York Red Bulls. The list of traveling players includes one particularly surprising name: Jair Pereira.
LOS CONVOCADOS:— Luis Armando Ponce (@ChivasSoyFeliz) April 9, 2018
Por el pase a la GRAN final de la Liga de Campeones:
Toño Rodríguez, Rodlfo Cota, Miguel Jiménez.
Oswaldo Alanís, Jair Pereira, Aris Hernández, Mayorga, Salcido.
The 31-year-old was Chivas’ captain for the first leg of the CCL series against RBNY, but he’s not expected to be on the field for the game at Red Bull Arena: he has been handed a two-game suspension by CONCACAF for putting a hand on Sean Davis’ neck during an on-field altercation between players from both teams.
Chivas traveled to New York this afternoon, ahead of Tuesday's #CCL semifinal 2nd leg at Red Bull Arena. Jair Pereira still traveled with the team, because they're trying to appeal his 2 match suspension for grabbing Sean Davis by the throat. Crazy. #CONCACAF #RBNY #SCCL2018 pic.twitter.com/QrLHT9Q3eM— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) April 8, 2018
It did not appear to be a controversial suspension. Pereira was seen with a hand on the throat of an opponent on live TV, the images were quickly circulated on social media; yes, the referee was standing RIGHT THERE and didn’t issue a card to Pereira, but CONCACAF either needed to act or explain why it had decided choking opponents is acceptable in its competitions. CONCACAF chose to act: Pereira will be sitting out the second leg of the semifinal, and - if Chivas get that far - the first leg of the final.
Or maybe not. As his team readied itself to travel, Pereira explained to Mexican media that he wasn’t simply making the journey to provide moral support: an appeal has been swiftly filed with CONCACAF.
Pereira’s comments were wide-ranging as he attempted to explain why he imagined it possible his appeal could be successful. Diario Record reported remarks that were bordering on the paranoid: “Lately, the Mexican teams are competing in the Club World Cup and I think that now they will want to have a team from [the USA] in the Club World Cup.” Per AS, Pereira also indulged the notion that his club get picked on regularly: “I bet you that if it had been another team, nothing happens.”
He also found time to suggest that the incident itself was neither exceptional nor egregious, noting that a teammate had been the victim of off-the-ball roughhousing in Chivas’ CCL series against Cibao, and stating he was acting with restraint, not unchecked aggression: “If you wanted to hurt, you throw a punch in another way, not with pushes or a grab.”
Oh, and the Red Bulls started it. Per AS, Pereira explained:
It’s always like that, during the game they made two attempts at anger , they were the ones who started. There were people much bigger like Parker and others who really physically were much superior to our players.
It’s a comprehensive defense, though one suspects Chivas won’t find much sympathy from CONCACAF. Perhaps the two-game suspension might be reduced to one, restricting the punishment to the series in which the crime was committed. But a complete reversal of the suspension would be a surprise, and would fuel RBNY’s grievances: the Red Bulls were denied what looked to be a clear penalty during the first leg, and had a man sent off while Pereira was allowed to see out the game despite having throttled an opponent in front of the referee.
Whatever CONCACAF next chooses to do or not do, both Chivas and RBNY have plenty of bulletin board material heading into the second leg. Throw in the fact both sides would very much like to be in this year’s CCL final, and neither team should be lacking motivation when they meet again at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday, April 10.