MLS: Diego Chara and Jack Price vindicate intensity over yellow cards

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: Benny Feilhaber #33 of Los Angeles FC battles Diego Chara #21 of Portland Timbers at the Banc of California Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.(Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: Benny Feilhaber #33 of Los Angeles FC battles Diego Chara #21 of Portland Timbers at the Banc of California Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.(Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images) /

Aren’t yellow cards bad? Well, Diego Chara and Jack Price tallied enough to make the top-two in MLS. They vindicate intensity over yellow cards.

With eight yellow cards apiece through July 20, Diego Chara and Jack Price lead MLS in yellow cards. And yet, they’re still winning performance awards. That’s eight yellows apiece with plenty of the season left. And the fans and coaches wouldn’t part with these players for any reason.

Midfielders Chara, Portland Timbers, and Price, Colorado Rapids, play so well they’re respected throughout the league, that’s even while leading in yellow cards. And they’re so valuable they’ve both won Team of The Week honors in the first half of the 2018 season.

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Chara won a spot on the Team of The Week in Week 20. Price got the same honor in Week 7. Plus, Price was named the Rapids’ Player of the Month in April.

So, how do you net league-leading yellow cards and still stay valuable?

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First and foremost, you need to be recognized as a top tactical midfielder of the holding type. Chara and Price have earned that recognition. For Chara, he’s a holding midfielder. For Price, scouts explain he’s a central midfielder skilled in passing and vision.

By vision, coaches mean the player knows where opponents are going. The player also knows where the teammates are headed. And that’s all understood without much head rotation. With that player-scanning ability, the midfielder can set up the most effective passes. And not just passes to those players in front or behind. And that’s the simplest definition of soccer vision: the ability to find the most effective potential passes. Former player and Portland broadcaster Nat Borchers gave a great general definition of vision. He described Chara’s talent as reading the game.

So how do these talented, tactical midfielders get more yellow cards than the others? Simply, they play rough when opening up channels for the ball.

So you won’t find yellows for ‘time wasting’ or ‘dissent’. A sampling of yellow cards for both Chara and Price almost always get filed as ‘unsporting behavior’.

The important thing about this type of Midfielder, whether described as ‘skilled holding’ or ‘defensive’: You’ve got to have teammates and coaches who understand how great the play goes when their penalty magnets take the field, and they’ve got to know how to keep it together when the players have to sit one out because the yellows have piled up again.

That’s what happens when Chara and Price get on the field.

Chara made MLS Team of the Week in Week 20 after helping the Portland Timbers reach a draw. And he drew a yellow card. He got his eighth yellow card of the 2018 season in that same game. That clinched his tie for the league lead.

The penalty won by Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela closed the first half after a free kick. As usual, it wasn’t dissent or violent conduct that drew the yellow, although officials called those penalties on others during this same intense contest. In the end, Portland kept LAFC from scoring in their home stadium for the first time in the game. While a draw, it extended the Timbers’ unbeaten MLS streak to 12 games.

Holding midfielder Chara gets counted on heavily in intense, grinding games like this. The team needed him focused for 90 minutes plus stoppage, and they got it. Just like this tactical midfield position calls for, Chara had plus-91% passing completion rate for the game, rated 5.5% in possession with 72 touches and added four tackles. Aerials remain one of Chara’s few remaining areas for improvement. Not so much here. He had a chance to win one aerial in this game. He got it.

(Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

When Chara’s on the field, he makes great things happen for Portland Timbers. Just like in this superlative contest. As for the yellow card, the team needs to practice what the Walt Disney Corp. sings: ‘let it go!’

Similarly, Price scored 78 seconds into the Rapids’ April 14 game against Toronto FC. That got him on the Sub List for Team of the Week. Rapids fans also voted Jack Price their Player of the Month for April after his performance in that game.

Price played 90 minutes in the 2-0 shutout of Toronto FC by the Colorado Rapids. He scored his first MLS goal in that game. Yet, his value to the team isn’t primarily scoring goals. It comes from his textbook performance as a holding or defensive midfielder.

That’s how Price performed in this award-winning game. He had 72 touches during his 90 minutes. He nailed a tackle. And for his 49 passes, he rated just under 76% accuracy. One of those rated as a Key Pass also, showing the forward-thinking, progressive intent of his distribution.

And like valuable players who stay consistently aggressive in penetrating defenses, he got a yellow card in that game. That’s one of his eight yellows this season, which ties him with Chara for the league lead. It predictably got filed as unsportsmanlike conduct.

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Outstanding players like Jack Price and his Timbers counterpart Diego Chara maintain up to 90 minutes of intensity in all areas of their rich games. Price, Chara and valuable players like them draw yellows through their intensity. They vindicate it in the face of the mountain of yellow cards. It’s a price worth paying, and Chara and Price are two of the best to pay for.