[REF WATCH] The officiating in MLS came under much criticism this year and, certainly, there were some poorly officiated games but also some well-officiated ones too, just as any other league in the world. Yet I believe the level of officiating was higher than the level of play in MLS.
A general criticism that can be made of the MLS referees -- and they share in the blame here with league executives, coaches and players -- is that the games are way too physical. Perhaps it’s all the EPL that the Fox Soccer Channel has been showing leading people to believe that games should be that physical.
Consequently, physical soccer sometimes overtakes skillful soccer in MLS. I struggle to watch MLS games at times just as I struggle to watch EPL teams in the middle or bottom of the standings because of the physical play and would much rather watch other leagues instead. If MLS is going to become a major sports league in the United States and Canada, it needs to sort out this issue pretty quickly.
Moving on to the 2011 MLS Cup final, a good performance by the officials. The Galaxy goal by Robbie Keane was disallowed in the 57th minute by the flag of assistant referee Peter Manikowski. Commentators Ian Darke and John Harkes said the AR had it wrong but even the instant replay was inconclusive (and I have watched it 10 times). Perhaps the left leg of Houston’s backtracking second-to-last defender, Jeff Cameron, kept Keane onside but the call was extremely tight.
Referee Ricardo Salazar whistled five fouls in the first five minutes, then the game settled down as he whistled eight fouls in the rest of the first half. All five cautions that he issued were correct and he could have given two more. I believe that David Beckham’s studs-up tackle at midfield in the 47th minute should have been a caution too. Perhaps the reason that Salazar did not caution him is Beckham yelled that he got the ball, which was true, but the challenge was reckless.
Houston’s Andre Hainault was lucky to not be sent off for his second caution in the 89th minute after a late challenge on Beckham at midfield.
Overall, the officials can be happy with their performance as well as the fact that people are talking about the game rather than any of their decisions.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In “Preventive Officiating,” he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/)