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Rating the reffing of MLS Cup 2011
by Randy Vogt, November 21st, 2011 9:10PM
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TAGS:  mls, referees


[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

  1. Ernest Irelan
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 8:11 a.m.
    there is no doubt in my mind, the people in the USA tend to want to see blood an guts at sports events...a mentality that has developed over the years from stock car races to boxing, football, hockey, you name it, is in all games...they love to see the dugouts cleared in baseball, an I am hoping this hooligan type of play an support does not continue to run over into soccer. The game of soccer is all about technical skill, no one that really appreciates the beautiful game wants to see a player TAKEN OUT by some sloppy tackle or head butt..I know, I do not appreciate that style of play...all one has to do is sit along the sidelines of a youth soccer game an liaten to the parents...listen to some of your old tapes of parents, you will understand what I am talking about..referees need to GET IT RIGHT at the start of their careers an help soccer in the USA become the beautiful game it is meant to , ,yes, I do believe that Keane should have had a goal, to second guess the call that close is absurd...if the referee can not be positive, it should have been a non call, only calls that can be seen to be clear are to called...the guess game is not to be in play....studs up, following thru...a card, for sure...sorry is what it is...a reckless an dangerous play..
  1. Marc Silverstein
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 8:19 a.m.
    Randy, when there is any doubt don't raise the flag for offside, benefit of doubt must always go the attacking team. Tha offside flag was incorrect.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
    Randy is right to give the AR a break. That play was at very high speed and Keane looked to be badly offside. It's also always hard to judge when the guy keeping him onside is 20 yards away (and they're going in different directions). Even in instant replay, with the benefit of the computer drawn line, it was hard to tell. It's just one of those exceptionally difficult calls (and fortunately, it did not make a difference in the game). I disagree with the need to give Hainault a second yellow for his tackle on Beckham. Hainault had every reason to believe he was going to get the ball on that tackle, and only got Beckham because Beckham made an incredible effort to touch it first (where he demonstrated that his will to win could overcome the limitations of his aging body). So a second yellow there would have been harsh, and while I generally think refs don't give enough cards, in this case, Salazar was right to keep the card in his pocket. The referees did a really good job on the game.
  1. Albert Harris
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 10:07 a.m.
    I agree that the benefit of the doubt should go to the attacker. Obviously there was no doubt in the AR's mind so he flagged it. There's doubt in my mind looking at the instant replay, but the AR didn't have the benefit of that so hard to really criticize him for making a very difficult call. Who'd want to be a referee? LOL
  1. Phil Love
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
    It seems like MLS and EPL refs' highest priority is to "let the game flow" and allow cheap game-stagnating fouls, but call anything close to offsides. All borderline offsides calls go to the defense in these leagues. The AR in the MLS Cup called it the same as they always do. Overall I thought the refereeing in MLS Cup was pretty good, defintely better than the typical MLS game.
  1. Carl Grover
    commented on: November 22, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.
    As a high school referee for 20 years the AR got it wrong. If it is that close then offside should not be called. However MLS AR's have been doing it all season and at least they are consistent - but it does go against FIFA rules. Also the referees have been consistent in not following the rules against physical play. Just look at all the serious injuries this year without more serious punishment to the offender. Wake up MLS! This is not the EPL or American football. Punish them or send them to the EPL. The referee has a almost impossible task and and in this game he did quite well. Not the AR however. In the championship game he has to come up to the task regardless of the benefit we have of replay. It is a tough call but when if that close it should not be called. My humble opinion.
  1. Mark Jefferson
    commented on: November 26, 2011 at 6:48 p.m.
    Carl, what the hell are you talking about? So if that wasn't even a close call and he 'got it wrong' and you seem to think it was obvious, why don't I see you in MLS games? That is a very close call and you must not be a very good high school official. And again, if its happened all season, then why don;t you go show them how to do it? Sure maybe it was wrong or maybe it was right (reply wasn't the best) but don't be going off at MLS officals, I sure as hell don't see you out there, with your '20 years' as a highschool official. (could you not pass the USSF test? High school seems to be easier...).

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