By Randy Vogt
Silviu Petrescu of Waterloo, Ontario was the first Canadian to receive MLS Referee of the Year honors and he officiated the 2012 MLS Cup final. This was a surprising choice for me but Petrescu and the two assistant referees –– Daniel Belleau of Sainte-Hélène-de-Breakeyville, Québec and Darren Clark of Kamloops, British Columbia –– can be very happy with their performances. Los Angeles had two penalty kicks and two goals disallowed, all very important decisions, but a reason the media are talking about the players and not the officiating is the refs had all these calls correct.
Petrescu had the two penalty-kick decisions correct: the 65th minute handling offense by Ricardo Clark and the 93rd-minute Tally Hall trip of Robbie Keane where he grabbed Keane in the upper thigh. Petrescu also correctly disallowed the Omar Gonzalez header in the 63rd minute that became a goal by Keane as Gonzalez held Bobby Boswell before heading the ball, although that decision was not as clear-cut as the two PK decisions.
Assistant referee Belleau was the busier of the two ARs as all four goals were scored in his end. He correctly saw that Houston’s Calen Carr was even with the second-to-last Los Angeles defender when the ball was played to him before Houston’s goal in the 44th minute. Belleau also saw that Keane was a yard offside before scoring what wound up being a disallowed goal in the 48th minute.
That play originated from a David Beckham free kick given when Houston’s Brad Davis pushed Los Angeles’ Christian Wilhelmsson by the touchline near the L.A. bench. My only criticism of Petrescu’s performance is he ignored a Los Angeles trip in midfield 10 seconds before, which preceded the whistle against Davis.
Assistant referee Clark correctly saw that Keane was just onside when he received a long Beckham pass in the 13th minute. Keane continued dribbling and crossed to Landon Donovan, who should have done better with his shot. But Clark missed Mike Magee being a foot offside in the 19th minute off another Beckham free kick. Magee’s header went past the far post.
As an aside, one of the things that I love about soccer is something happens on occasion that I’ve never seen, even after officiating thousands of matches and watching many games. I’ve never seen a player celebrate a goal by jumping over the 5-foot corner flag as Carr did. Good thing he cleared the flag -- otherwise, he would have been in a lot of pain, even before his second-half injury.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to six-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/)