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Much ado about penalties
by Ridge Mahoney, September 23rd, 2009 7AM

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[REF WATCH] A former MLS head coach who shall remain nameless once uttered these words in regards to penalty kicks and the amount of time spent discussing them by players, coaches, and journalists: "Every week, in every league and every competition in every part of the world, you're going to see penalties called and not called. All of us - coaches, players, the media, the fans, everybody - spend way too much time talking about penalties given and not given. They're almost always critical moments in the game, so it makes sense. ...

"But let me tell you something: Unless it's 100 percent a penalty that doesn't get called, or 100 percent not a penalty that does get called, we should all just shut up, and do our jobs."

Well, sometimes when the referee does his job, he still gets ripped, as occurred last Friday at Buck Shaw Stadium when Edvin Jurisevic called a "100 percent" penalty.

San Jose players and staff members launched a three-pronged attack on Jurisevic after he whistled for a penalty kick deep into stoppage time with the Quakes clinging to a 1-0 lead against Colorado. A partially cleared Colorado corner kick was lobbed back into the penalty area and as it was flicked on Rapids' defender Drew Moor crashed to the ground heavily.

Furious protests ensued, with Chris Leitch and Brandon McDonald both cautioned for their protests. The three points of contention were: a) Whether a foul had truly been committed or Moor had taken a dive; b) whether Moor was offside; and c) how a referee could possibly decide the game with such a call at that point in the match.

Viewings of television replays showed that, a) Ryan Johnson, whose goal had given San Jose its lead, clearly grabbed Moor by the shoulder and hauled him down as the ball bounced through the goalmouth; b) Shea Salinas probably played Moor on-side, though no replay had caught the play at the ideal angle, and c) the referee by most accounts had a poor game but had the courage to make the right call in a rowdy environment and chaotic situation.

ESPN2 commentator John Harkes called it "a stupid foul." It certainly was. Naturally, the Quakes vented their anger and frustration at the referee.

When it comes to dealing with crowds, referees can't win.

 

They are supposed to withstand pressure and abuse and intimidation from home fans, players and coaches, yet a few weeks ago, when Ricardo Salazar sent off David Beckham for a dangerous, over-the-ball foul on Pete Vagenas, among the criticisms leveled at him ran along the lines of, "If I'm a fan and I've paid good money for my ticket, I want to see David Beckham play, not sent off." Accusations of Salazar "making a name for himself by sending off David Beckham' were also issued.

I hope referees will use discretion and common sense in all circumstances, not just those involving the most famous or glamorous players. Whether Beckham's foul merited a red card wasn't nearly as clear-cut a decision as that of Johnson pulling down Moor, but had the offender not been Beckham, less controversy would have ensued.

On the other hand, Mark Geiger's awarding of a penalty kick when Steven Lenhart and Wilman Conde lifted their cleats high for the same ball in the Fire-Crew game last Sunday just looked like overzealous refereeing.

Lenhart took the worst of the incident and hit the ground but it didn't seem as if Conde, who may have got a piece of the ball, clocked him illegally. Since no broadcast replay approximated Geiger's view or showed the incident clearly - unlike the case of Johnson -- it's difficult to assess his call, but the Fire players protested just as virulently as did the Quakes, though the incidents were hardly comparable.

 



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