Joe Sirianni (center), during an NASL reunion in Frisco, Texas in 2018, received a red card in 1977. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer)

By Michael Lewis Editor

In what could be an MLS first, Philadelphia Union head trainer Paul Rushing was awarded a red card in the 79th minute of the team’s 2-1 win over New York City FC at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa. on Sunday night.

Rushing was given his marching orders by referee Armando Villarreal for his interactions with City players while trying to care for fallen Union attacker Julian Carranza.

Rushing was seen shoving Nicolas Acevedo in the back and appeared to have salty words with other NYCFC players.

A trainer receiving a red card has happened at least once before.

Yours truly wrote about an incident that transpired with Rochester Lancers trainer Joe Sirianni during the 1977 North American Soccer League season. In fact, Sirianni’s nickname is Red Card. He is a co-host of the radio program, Soccer is a Kick in the Grass and he is expected to talk about his incident from 45 years ago on Monday’s 6:30 p.m. ET program.

Here is an excerpt from my recently published book, ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers:

On June 1, a cozy crowd of 3,037 at behemoth Soldier Field watched the Lancers lose their 13th straight road match, 3-2. They rallied from a two-goal deficit in the second half behind Mike Stojanovic’s two goals. The Sting broke a 2-2 deadlock on a penalty kick by Benny Alon with 2:06 remaining in regulation. English referee Bob Matthewson ruled that Miralem Fazlic had fouled Ron Moore in the penalty area. After the game, Fazlic reportedly was so disturbed that he didn’t undress for a good 15 minutes, while mumbling at his locker, “They never kicked the ball. How could he call it?”

Alon sent his shot to goalkeeper Jack Brand’s right. “It was highway robbery at its best,” said Lancers co-owner Charlie Schiano, who also was the team’s radio analyst at the time. After the final whistle, head coach Dragan Popovic and trainer Joe Sirianni dashed across the field to Mathewson to give them their combined four cents. Both men were slapped with red cards, as Sirianni pinched the referee from behind.

Joe Sirianni

Sirianni explained why he was on the field at the same time as Popovic. “It was not only [my job] to be the trainer, but to control Popovic,” he said. “Control him because he was uncontrollable in a sense, to be kind of between and what was happening on the field, because he was very boisterous. He was Popovic. Everybody was protesting. I followed Popovic on the field with the [thought] not to get him a red card. … From Popovic I learned, whenever they got into a skirmish and you want to get somebody angry . . . so you pinch a person, you get that person to react. Consequently, they get a yellow card and you’re an innocent guy.”

Not this time. “I went out there to be the Popovic protector,” Sirianni said. “Popovic was arguing with the referee, and I was right behind the referee. So, what the devil made me do was to pinch the referee on the cheek of his butt. He turned around. At first, he thought it was Popovic. But I quickly turned the other way because I know I want to be innocent. He thought it was me and he gave me a red card.”

Jim Pollihan made the save of the night as he pulled Popovic away from the ref. According to his report to NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam, Matthewson stated that “after the game, Popovic grabbed at my arm, pushed me and proceeded to shout non-stop abuse at me.” Popovic said that he “told him he was an SOB and asked him who he thought he was, coming here [from England] to tell us about soccer.”

If you want to read more about Joe Sirianni and the Rochester Lancers’ adventures back in the day during the Wild West of soccer, you can purchase this book:


FOR YOUR SUMMER READING: An entertaining book about the Rochester Lancers and an education about the early days of the modern pro soccer era