Referee Tim Weyland was kept busy by the Sounders and the Galaxy on Sunday -- to the tune of eight yellow cards and one red. He also called 27 fouls -- which is high, but not outrageously so.
Now for the anomaly. Whenever a referee issues a lot of cards, it seems that he immediately gets criticized. What happened on the field is suddenly irrelevant. A shower of cards must mean poor refereeing. So the ref gets blamed for indiscipline when it would be as logical -- more logical, really -- to criticize the players involved.
And Weyland has duly come in for criticism. It was depressingly inevitable that Seattle coach Sigi Schmid and GM Adrian Hanauer would have their say. What surprised me was that MLS big shot Todd Durbin -- an executive vice president no less --should sound off, telling the Seattle Times that Weyland is "an experienced referee who didn't have his best day." Which lines up Durbin, and therefore MLS, alongside Schmid and Hanauer. Durbin should know better than to comment -- especially when it is the U.S. Soccer Federation that supplies and assesses the referees.
A pretty bad gaffe. A better target for Durbin would be the players and the coaches involved. Those are legitimate targets for MLS comments. Schmid for example, who was adorned with enough Sounders paraphernalia to make him look more like a fan than a coach, duly behaved like a fan. He berated Weyland on the field, and then announced, postgame, that he was "disappointed in the refereeing." He also said that he was "disappointed with the ejection." James Riley, one of Sigi's players, was thrown out in the 57th minute after he had slugged the Galaxy's Mike Magee. I trust it is Riley whom Schmid is disappointed with and not Weyland, who did exactly what he had to do. But I have my doubts.
The confusion and shoving and pushing that surrounded that incident involved many players. In the end, Magee and Sounders captain Freddie Ljungberg got yellows. The whole episode lasted over 3 minutes and reflected little credit on anyone. But you have to be standing on your head to blame it on Weyland.
Sigi was joined in that unlikely stance by Seattle GM Adrian Hanauer whose statements could well win him a "Season's Best" -- if MLS had a Most Fatuous Comments award. After lamenting that the Sounders had not won the game and that "the referee played a role in that," Hanauer had this to say:
"My bigger concern is that we are working hard here in Seattle ... to get fans into the building, and we owe a good experience to our fans. And that means referees that maintain control of the game, referees that keep the flow of the game going, referees that don't become the center of attention, referees that keep the players on the field, because quite frankly, the fans are here to see the players, not the referees."
First of all -- "working hard": No one is going to deny that Seattle has done one hell of a job, better than any club has ever done in MLS. Unfortunately that achievement doesn't enter into the matter -- unless Hanauer is claiming that hard work entitles the Sounders to Sounder-friendly referees?
Then -- "referees that maintain control of the game": the implication being that Weyland "lost control" of the game. Well, control was lost on the field. By the players. That is an area where the coaches might be expected to exert the main influence. Weyland used the only resource he has -- he issued cards. And that, apparently, was wrong of him.
Next -- "referees that keep the flow of the game going": This piffle can only mean that the referee should ignore fouls. And you can bet your life that Hanauer would have the referee ignore only Sounders fouls. If the referee's whistle is too often heard (and, as I said, 27 fouls is not an outrageous total) it sounds only as a response to what the players are doing.
Finally -- "referees that keep the players on the field": An even dumber notion that the previous one. Again, you can be quite sure that Hanauer means Sounders players. So Riley should remain on the field after striking an opponent?
Schmid's comments are the usual coaching blame-the-ref excuses to explain a team's poor performance. Hanauer merely makes an ass of himself outlining to MLS what sort of referee the Sounders require in future. While Todd Durbin's instant condemnation of Weyland -- giving the impression, whether he likes it or not, that Durbin is yielding to Seattle pressure -- is way out of order.
An afternoon of mediocre soccer produced by mediocre player performances and, yes, mediocre coaching got what it warranted: average refereeing. To single out Weyland as the lone culprit in this mess is not only ludicrous, it is downright shabby.