Referees grab the spotlight in MLS playoffs

If the goal of a referee is to go unnoticed, the two referees in Sunday's MLS conference finals failed miserably. One dominated the post-game conversation for the cards he handed out; the other for the card he didn't use.

MLS Conference Finals, Second Legs:
New England vs. New York
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
AR1: Frank Anderson, AR2: Ian Anderson
4TH: Silviu Petrescu

Seattle vs. LA Galaxy
Referee: Jair Marrufo
AR1: Eric Boria, AR2: Corey Rockwell
4TH: Hilario Grajeda

In the New York-New England match, Allen Chapman handed out 10 yellow cards -- one every six minutes from the 23rd to 83rd minute. Only one MLS playoff match has ever had more yellow cards, and five of the 11 in the 2007 Houston-FC Dallas came in overtime.

 “The referee lost control of the game for both teams," said Red Bulls coach Mike Petke after his players picked up six of 10 of Chapman's cards. "I almost wanted to get a yellow card because I felt left out.’’

Bradley Wright-Phillips' yellow card for encroachment means he'll be suspended for Saturday's second leg in Foxboro, where the Revs will take a 2-1 lead into the game. Wright-Phillips claimed he did not know the MLS accumulation rule -- two cards lead an automatic one-game suspension in the next game at all stages of the playoffs except for MLS Cup.

Petke says he went over the Red Bulls went over the rule with their players.

“I know it was talked about," he said on Monday. "At the end of the day, if he didn't know it, that's my fault. And perhaps he wouldn't have put his foot out in front of the goalie."

In the Seattle-LA Galaxy game, referee Kevin Stott handed out four yellow cards, but it was the card he didn't call that had everyone talking.

Galaxy players said Stott told one of their teammates he wasn't going to hand out a second yellow card -- presumably to Zach Scott late in the game -- because as Omar Gonzalez said, "he wants the best players to play in the next game."

Scott received a yellow card in the 37th minute but was not sent off for a second yellow -- that would have carried a one-game suspension -- for any of his three fouls on sub Alan Gordon.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid admitted the Sounders were fortunate Scott stayed on the field though he was critical of several of Stott's calls.

"I think we benefit a little there," he said. "I think in most games, the referee would have pulled that second yellow so I’m not going to pretend I didn’t see that or argue about that."

Landon Donovan predicted an even more physical game in Seattle on Sunday when the Galaxy will try to protect a 1-0 lead.

“You have to play that way this point of the year," he said. "The officials made it clear that no one is getting sent off. We have to make sure we are aware of that next weekend, and we play that with that in mind. I’m sure they will as well. It’s going to be even more physical next week. That’s OK. We can play that way.”
8 comments about "Referees grab the spotlight in MLS playoffs".
  1. R2 Dad, November 25, 2014 at 8:24 a.m.

    "The officials made it clear that no one is getting sent off". Pretty much capitulation. Way to win the mind games with the player, Marrufo. If the players comment holds to be true, did this directive come from Peter Walton? The way to ensure fair play is to do the exact opposite of all this clownish behavior. As a fan, am I more or less likely to tune into the second Seattle-LA match? If I wanted to watch the NFL, it's only a click away.
    re: 10 cards. No mention from Petke if any of those cards were deserved, but by his comments they sounded like they were arbitrarily handed out--nice job undermining the officiating function.

  2. Brent Crossland, November 25, 2014 at 8:32 a.m.

    Dad .... if you doubt that these instructions come from the top all you have to do is watch matches that Mark Geiger officiated at the World Cup and then watch the MLS matches that he covers. This is one of the problems with assuming that MLS can provide player development for the US National Team. MLS has no interest in player development and no interest in playing the game the same way the rest of the world does. All they care about is 'box office'. Don't get me wrong -- I'm impressed with the job that MLS has done of expanding and staying financially solvent. I just fear that it is coming at the expense of the game that I love.

  3. F. Kirk Malloy, November 25, 2014 at 8:53 a.m.

    Sorry, but the MLS playoffs are, again, a barroom brawl with a ball. I didn't catch the Galaxy game, but watched every minute of the RB-Revs brawl. Every one of the 10 yellow cards was well earned, one foolishly. It seems like the players and coaches abandon any pretext of playing within the rules and simply go out there to "kick the crap" [literally] out of the opponent. Oh well. The beat goes on.

  4. James e Chandler, November 25, 2014 at 9:48 a.m.

    I'm with all you posters about the quality of the game. The commonly used term is "ugly American soccer."
    Just calm down. Think about the quality of play compared to what it used to be. Progress is made one step at a time.
    The problem is there's still a small percentage of fans that understand the game. Sometimes that includes coaches, and referees as well.
    Professional sports is part of the entertainment industry. People are making there living off of ticket sales, concessions, and advertisements. I hate to disillusion you, about how the game is the purest of sports, and the very foundation of the majority of games that use a ball, but in the fans eyes, it's "Dancing With the Stars" with a ball.
    It's people like us that have to keep stressing the true value of "the beautiful game". Some people will never understand just what goes into that perfectly slotted ball that beats the defense, but as more people see the game more, then more people will begin to notice the difference.
    We all here have seen the quality of play elevate at the youth level across the country. The number of coaches that teach the "boot and chase" method of soccer is dwindling. Now if we could just get rid of those from the youth, high school, college, and professional levels that still teach "It ain't cheatin' if you don't get caught", and "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'". Hopalong Cassidy used to say if you were shot for cheating at cards, it was justifiable homicide.
    Regardless of how unpopular Klinsman's statements have been, MLS is in fact second rate soccer. We know it.
    Still, to be relevant, the games have to entertain the people who buy all that junk with the teams' logos.
    Hang in there folks. Roma wasn't built in a day.

  5. Daniel Clifton, November 25, 2014 at 11:14 a.m.

    I watched the Revs-Red Bulls game and it was rough. It was also a game where both teams pushed the ball up the field with numbers and tried to score. I enjoyed the game except for the rough housing. The ten yellow cards were all deserved. Jones was lucky he didn't get a red when he tackled McCarty with studs up and his legs around McCarty's feet, however he didn't close ups his legs to do the scissor's clamp on McCarty's legs. It was obvious that NY was roughing up Nguyen on purpose. Clearly MLS has come a long way and has a long way to go to become a top competitive league in the world. Klinsmann is right that MLS is not as competitive as many leagues in Europe. The problem I see is that I believe true the pyramid is right side up youth development is only going to happen through MLS. That is where Klinsmann's statements and actions in encouraging young players to go to Europe is undermining what MLS must do if the US is going to develop a truly competitive USMNT.

  6. Kent James, November 25, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

    Excellent comments. Unfortunately, it looks like the MLS is adopting the NHL philosophy of allowing players to get away with more questionable play during the playoffs, I guess under the idea that they want the players to determine the outcome of the game, not the refs. Unfortunately, by not calling stuff that should be called, refs can still affect the outcome of the game, so that's lousy reasoning. If anything, to prevent very intense play from escalating into violence, refs need to be vigilant and call stuff early, before it gets out of hand. But of course, ideally, they'd be consistent throughout the regular season and the playoffs, and just call what needs to be called.

  7. Margaret Manning, November 25, 2014 at 2:28 p.m.

    Sorry to cite Simon Borg, but his video analysis over on MLSSoccer.com shows that there were plenty of non-cards in the Sounders-Galaxy game, one of which would have kicked Gonzalez out of the game. So let's stop talking just about Scott, who, admittedly, was lucky--perhaps because his first card was bogus.

    As for what Gonzales said about the ref announcing his intention not to card, someone had better straighten that mess out soon. Who was it said to? I'm cynical, but if it happened, then consequences are appropriate.

  8. beautiful game, November 25, 2014 at 7:50 p.m.

    Refs are supposed to officiate by the laws of the game, not by what the head of referees or someone else dictates. MLS players are in tune with what they can get away with. And if the ref does not make a statement early, the game eventually gets out of control. Actually, before the teams take the field, the ref should make it plain and simple about what he will not tolerate on the pitch, and enforce it without exception. This type of player-ref understanding will eliminate the nonsense.

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