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What's this? A goalkeeper penalized for rough play?
by Paul Gardner, June 2nd, 2017 12:54AM
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TAGS:  mls, referees

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By Paul Gardner

Meet Sorin Stoica. Maybe you’ve seen him in action during MLS games. Not a highly paid or widely acclaimed player, though. A referee. A rather unusual referee, it seems.

On May 28, right at the end of the game between Vancouver and D.C. United, Stoica did what referees can hardly ever bring themselves to do. He called a penalty kick against a goalkeeper -- D.C. United’s Bill Hamid -- for charging violently into an opponent.

No doubt it is asking too much to expect other MLS referees to follow his lead by making similar calls, but Stoica has shown us that such calls can be made -- and the sky does not fall.


Referee Sorin Stoica

The incident happened in the final minutes of the game -- tense moments as Vancouver, losing 0-1, pressed for the tying goal. From the left flank Christian Bolanos delivered a 25-yard air-born free kick into the D.C. goal mouth. Brek Shea, all 6-foot-3 of him, rose to meet it, as goalkeeper Hamid raced out of his goal, also determined to get the ball. Shea got there first and got off a pretty good header that smacked on to the crossbar and rebounded into play.

Hamid arrived a fraction of a second too late. Clearly, he did not get the ball. Equally clearly, he did get Brek Shea. Leading with outstretched arms and with his right knee raised, he raced forward and jumped into Shea, hard. 

The foul was blatant, ugly -- and obvious. The sort of foul that goalkeepers commit -- surely knowing that it is a dangerous foul, but also knowing that they are highly unlikely to be penalized.

For the moment, it looked as though this was business as usual. Stoica allowed play to continue for about 10 seconds, before whistling a halt. He took a brief look at Shea lying on the ground, then went to the sideline to talk to his AR, Jason White, who now becomes a key part of the drama. 

It seems likely that White was concerned about the foul. The decision, of course, was Stoica’s. He made the right one, the almost unthinkable one: he called a foul against Hamid and gave a penalty kick to Vancouver. (For the record, Cristian Techera added to the tension by missing the kick in almost melodramatic style).

The Stoica/White duo got this one right. Stoica was willing to make the call, thus going against the SOP of a sport that has put up with this open thuggery for far too long.

Well, I’ll have to backtrack somewhat. Stoica -- quite possibly flustered by his own audacity in making such a revolutionary call -- did not complete the job.

He did not punish Hamid. There is, firstly, the matter of the call. What, exactly was Hamid’s offense?  It might have been “playing in a dangerous manner” -- but that would have meant an indirect free kick, not a penalty kick.

So, as Stoica did not give Hamid a card -- neither red nor yellow -- we must assume that he rated Hamid’s foul as merely “careless”. (Had he rated it as “reckless”, he would have been obliged to give a yellow card. Or a red card for using “excessive force.”). So we are left to guess what Stoica called. And the guess leads only to “careless” play - which is a ridiculous understatement of Hamid’s assault.

We are back to an old annoyance, one that I have banged on about before, many times. Why is it that soccer referees do not have an approved menu of official signals to let us know, immediately, what they have called? (There exists, in the current rulebook, a set of signals that is inadequate and, frankly, not all that helpful).

Why on earth does PRO boss Peter Walton not set up a committee to address this matter and draw up a list of signals? This is hardly quantum mechanics. It does not mean changing any rules, it does not need FIFA’s approval. In fact, if the system worked well, it would likely be adopted (after the obligatory 10-year delay for IFAB to check it out) by FIFA.

The USA -- where fans of pro sports are, rightly, accustomed to being informed what referees and umpires are up to -- is the perfect place to introduce such signals.

Why not, Peter Walton?  

And a second query for Walton. Was Stoica’s brave call a result of any instruction or “emphasis” from PRO? It would be useful to know. Again, the fact that this is the USA is important. A highly litigious country. Head injuries are an issue now.

MLS could well be defusing a lot of potential trouble by telling PRO referees that they have to start penalizing goalkeepers for this type of foul. And, as with the system of referee signals ... no rule change is necessary.  The rules to deal with goalkeeper violence are already in the rulebook. They are, foolishly and dangerously, just not applied.



19 comments
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 7:15 a.m.
    I'll take the foul if that's all they're giving--better than nothing. The thinking is a penalty is enough deterrent without issuing a card, no matter if it's been earned. Good luck with the call for signals. Referees are not obliged to explain their calls, though usually it's quite obvious. The good officials make it evident with their own hand signals (e.g. offside, dangerous play, etc). As a referee at the youth level, avoiding a coach's inquiry or refusing to "develop a relationship" are useful tools to keep the game moving and maintaining control.
  1. Stuart Talbot
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 10:16 a.m.
    Coming out for a 50/50 ball and taking steps to protect yourself (goalkeeping 101) is not "thuggery". Goalkeepers routinely put themselves in harm's way to stop balls. If we're going to start telling them they can't, then you're about to see goals scored stats go up (the striker's dream). And again, it'll be left to the discretion of the ref as to whether it's considered dangerous play or not. And, adapting the game to meet the expectations of Americans isn't prudent. The rest of the world hasn't appeared to have a problem with it, so why make the change just for us?
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 1:37 p.m.
    Apparently you've not watched World Cup finals lately? https://youtu.be/14WDjvsxCQk Doesn't get any more controversial that this....
  1. Paul Cox
    commented on: June 3, 2017 at 9:21 a.m.
    It's the "taking steps to protect yourself" part of this statement that's the problem. The linked YouTube video shows what GK are taught, but it's absolutely thuggery; nothing in the LOTG gives GK any special dispensation for launching themselves into opposing players like that. The raised knee takes it to a level of either reckless or endangering the safety, requiring a caution or a sending-off.
  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at noon
    Sounds like the right call under very difficult circumstances (and you still given him a hard time for not issuing a card??). If the keeper was going for the ball and was just late (if he gets to the ball, no foul?), sounds like the no card decision was also correct. I guess once the curmudgeon, always the curmudgeon...
  1. Paul Cox
    commented on: June 3, 2017 at 9:24 a.m.
    Getting the ball doesn't mean that a foul wasn't committed. Field players aren't allowed to go through a guy to get the ball; GK shouldn't be allowed that, either.
  1. Miguel Dedo
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 12:02 p.m.
    Law 12 lists JUMPING AT an opponent as an offense. “At” in the law refers to direction, rather than to intent, “I was playing the ball,” which is about intent, is irrelevant. “CRUEX” (careless, reckless, excessive force) assigns the severity of the penalty. There is nothing in the laws of the game that exempts goalkeepers from this part of the laws, any more than “I was playing the ball!” exempts a field player. The law about “dangerous play” is relevant only if the offending player does not make physical contact with the opponent – it is more about “intimidation” than about Hamid's offense.
  1. Glenn Auve
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 12:02 p.m.
    While I agree that GKs have been getting away with way to much for far too long, I'm not sure holding Stoica up as the example for referees is all that helpful. After all, if he really wanted to call this he would have the second it happened instead of waiting an eternity and consulting the replay (according to Ben Olsen). It will be interesting to see if the VAR makes these calls more likely to be made.
  1. Ben Myers
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 12:16 p.m.
    Yes, penalize keepers for foul play. Of course! No to referee signals. Our local high school soccer association has them. Officiating at the high school level is bad enough with the dominant 2-referee system. Hand signals require yet more memorization on the part of referees and also use of the correct signal. And you want the referee to stop and think which hand signal to use when there is a foul? And when no card is issued and the offended team goes a quick restart? As a long time but retired FIFA referee, I never thought it necessary to stop play to explain a call to a coach braying: "What's the call, ref!!!?" If and when convenient, next time running by the bench, I would simply state a two or three word explanation to the coach, and keep on moving.
  1. Jay Wall
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 1:19 p.m.
    Ben, I disagree with your statement that "I would simply state a two or three word explanation to the coach, and keep on moving". Coaches are responsible for learning, knowing and teaching the laws of the game to their assistants and players. And when they fail to do this there are several tricks within the Laws of the Game that an opposing coach can use with great effect. >> In the Region 1 Regionals, State A Champion takes a 2-0 lead in the first half over the State B Champion. Coach of Team B starts the second half with the same lineup playing the same way to see if the coach of State A has made any changes. After 10 minutes the coach of Team B sends the keeper for Team B to the Center Circle and has the teams Sweeper 10 to 15 yards into the half Team B is defending. The Team A Center Striker moves with the Team B defender towards the goal Team B is defending. Ball is passed to the Team A Center Striker the referee blows the whistle, calls offsides and the Team A Coach and Parents yell at the referee. The referee continues the game without telling anyone on Team A why he called the Team A Center Striker offsides. He simple told the coach you are responsible for knowing the Laws of the Game. Everytime the ball was passed to the Center Striker in Team B's half of the field the call was offsides. After 7 calls three parents from Team A were send to parking lot. Another 5 offside calls (it's now 12 offside calls total) and the coach of Team A suddenly realizes there is only 1 opponent between his striker and the Team B's goal. The coach of Team B had totally frustrated Team A, Team B had scored and Team B had shortened the field for almost 20 minutes of the second half and there was only 15 minutes left in the game. >> In my humble opinion referees should call the game according to the Laws of the Game but not explain why a call was made, at least not until the end of the game. >>> P.S. - The state Champion of State A was very good and represented the state that had more USYSA registered players than any other USYSA state association at that time.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 1:50 p.m.
    Unicorn. State Final coach who doesn't know the offside LOTG. Personally, I would listen to the retired FIFA referee, jussayin'.
  1. Scott Johnson
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 5:05 p.m.
    I'd be more amused if a coach failed to notice the opposing keeper was well out of his box--but if he or his players didn't understand the offside law well enough to know how to exploit that, that's bad. At any rate, offside is usually one call that is obvious from signals, particularly if the AR is raising his flag.
  1. Jay Wall
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 12:40 p.m.
    Seems everyone is missing the point. In soccer like other invasion sports, players need to be properly devloped, regardless of position being played, to never make a decision so late they arrive too late to be successful, to never make a decision so early they arrive too early bronging an opponent with them or broadcasting what they are doing so early they can't be successful. What players need to be be taught and traiuned to do perfectly is to make the best right decision at the right time to arrive at the exact instant they need to arrive to be as successful as they can be. Dangerous play is far too often the resulted of seriously flawed play that comes from coaches who fail to teach players an insightful savvy that allows them to, as much as is humanly possible, always leave and arrive on time. It's easier for coaches to teach players to play physically strong than to mentally outplay their opponents by always arriving on time. >> The referee obviously made the correct call and one that should have been made. My concern is players are taught to play physcial to cover their errors in not arriving on time, because our coaches fail to teach and train what they must know to always arrive on time. If our players can't make decisions to arrive on time in MLS how can they ever make the best decisions to arrive on time against National teams made up of the best players in the 5 top leagues in Europe?
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 1:43 p.m.
    Speed of play, especially representing your country, is much faster than it was 25 years ago making the timing issue that more difficult for young players coming up.
  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 1:01 p.m.
    Once yet again, I venture to ask if PG and those commenting above EVER, I mean e-v-e-r- have officiated a futbol-soccer game at ANY level? Probably not, bue hey, then again, in PG's case, the mere fact that he's been writing about our sport for quite some time now, at least since early in the 1970's, that makes him an expert on that which is everything pertaining to football, I mean futbol-soccer, eh wott?
  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 1:49 p.m.
    I have to agree with Ric here. It is easy to criticize referees, until you get out there and do it in real time. It is not easy. Angles of viewpoint make all the difference, which is why you need the help of your linesmen. I did not like giving up cheap penalty kicks. It has too big of an influence on the game. On the other hand I didn't want to let defenders get away with anything in the box either. This referee got it right. Why criticize him for failing to give a card. I can remember at the end of a competitive girl's game doing the same thing. Calling the foul on the goalie, but not giving a card. The team with the penalty kick won on that kick.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: June 2, 2017 at 3:42 p.m.
    Would have liked to see the replay of the foul, but no you tube to bad
  1. Chris Bonar
    commented on: June 3, 2017 at 10:13 a.m.
    Do not have a problem with the call but goalies learned to protect themselves because players were injuring the goalie during play and refs did not make the call. Refs have to make the call when appropriate, both ways, and the game will be a more civil and beautiful thing to watch. I have reffed since 1982 and am not bashing the refs.
  1. metro metro
    commented on: June 6, 2017 at 1:54 p.m.
    RIDICULOUS to call this thugish. Just ridiculous. I do not think this is a foul. But I do see how this could be called a foul as one of the earlier commenters RIGHT points out that the law states AT.

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