Despite a late red card, Oscar Sorto impresses in first career start

Galaxy boss Bruce Arena said Oscar Sorto played with “a lot of confidence”

CARSON, Calif. – It was a proud Oscar Soto who walked off the field in the LA Galaxy’s hard-earned, 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo at StubHub Center on Friday night.

The crowd of 20,195 chanted his name as he headed to the lockerroom.

Sorto sheepishly took it all in and waived his hand as he acknowledged the cheers.

“It was actually a proud walk,” said Sorto, who made his first career start at left back in place of Robbie Rogers, who is out with an ankle injury. “It was like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’“

But the thrill of accomplishment turned into a night of decidedly mixed emotions for the 20-year-old native of Los Angeles. There also was a feeling of anger, then shock, after he was red-carded for a foul on Houston’s David Horst during extra time and the Galaxy desperately clinging to the lead.
“I was a bit mad, but it’s all over,” he said.

Sorto had tackled Horst as they pursued a deflected corner kick just outside the penalty area during the game’s waning moments. Referee Ismail Elfath initially appeared to take out a yellow card but moments later switched it to red, resulting in an immediate ejection. That made Sorto ineligible for the Galaxy’s home game Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy was left dumbfounded at the decision, which officially was attributed to a “fight” in the boxscore, although there was no altercation whatsoever.

The Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, playing in his first game in just under two months and assisting on Alan Gordon’s winning goal in the 93rd minute, felt sorry for his young teammate.

“Oscar, the poor kid,” Keane said. “He had a great game. He did very, very well.

“The referee is standing right beside him. It definitely wasn’t a red card. Whoever makes the decision to rescind … if you don’t rescind this it’s an absolute embarrassment. There’s no way that kid deserved to get sent off, regardless of whether it was the second game or 500th game.

“He didn’t deserve to get sent off.”

The soft-spoken Sorto, who said head coach Bruce Arena told him two days ago he would be starting, quietly accepted the controversial decision.

“The referee told me it was a foul from the back,” Sorto said. “I feel like I touched the ball first… the guy just crashed into me. I didn’t want to complain and argue with that.

“I just walked away. I didn’t want to keep adding more minutes to the game.”

Arena said he was impressed with his young defender’s play – “Right from the start he showed a lot of confidence,” he said – and Sorto said he was hopeful he’ll be called on again to make another start.

Once he’s eligible again, of course.

“It’s up to the coaches,” Sorto said. “I just did my job today and I’m going to continue to do my job.”

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