The New Jersey Red Bulls, it seems to me, had every reason to be miffed after their 2-2 tie with the Galaxy. They had seen their 2-0 lead snatched away by a spirited late Galaxy comeback.
But the Bulls felt they should have had a PK when Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe brought down Alex Muyl. Then, with the score at 2-2, the Bulls staged their own comeback. Again they were thwarted by another “save” from Rowe. This time he barreled into Gonzalo Veron.
I say “save” rather than save, because it would be the Bulls’ contention that both challenges were fouls, as Rowe dived at the feet of first Muyl and then Veron, sending each player sprawling. Fouls that, in the Bulls’ eyes, should have resulted in penalty kicks.
Well, just one of them would have been OK, but referee Hilario Grajeda nixed both of them. Earlier in the game, the Galaxy thought it might get a PK when Steven Gerrard went down, but Grajeda turned that one down too.
Let me get one thing out of the way, something that is clouding my judgment. I refer to the absolutely dreadful post-game whine from Bulls coach Jesse Marsch. A long, peevish, childish, moan telling us how great and wonderful all his players are, that this shouldn’t be happening to his team, and how can it be understood?
And so on.
A righteousness that is quite out of place. Utterly puke-inducing. Marsch has been having his troubles -- caused by his own intemperate comments on referees -- so he carefully left the ref out of this whining tirade, and thus failed to make the real point, which was “We wuz robbed!”
Marsch needs to work on his inability to understand that his team will sometimes lose games they deserved to win, and will get referee calls going against them. Standing up for his players is one thing. But trying to dress himself as a suffering martyr is something quite different.
So, overlooking the tiresome Martyrdom of Marsch, I’m on his side here. I think they were robbed. They should have had at least one penalty kick late in the game.
My interest now becomes one of trying to understand Grajeda’s decisions. And the first point to consider, is that both appeals involved the Galaxy goalkeeper. That complicates matters.
I have no doubt that had a Galaxy field player charged into Muyl or Veron with the abandon shown by Rowe a penalty kick would have been called. The judgment that has to be made is quite simple: were Rowe’s challenges careless or reckless? That is what is needed to satisfy the rulebook, enough to mean that the referee must call a foul ... and therefore a penalty.
Careless: “when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution.” Reckless: “when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent ...”
There really doesn’t need to be much discussion on this point. We know, because goalkeepers and their supporters have told us time and again, that when a goalkeeper goes for the ball, he must get it, regardless of who is in his way (that includes teammates as well as opponents.
This is an attitude that enjoys wide acceptance in the game -- heaven knows why. Earlier this year, during a telecast of a Premier League game between Swansea City and Aston Villa, Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan came out for a cross, missed it and allowed Swansea to score. He was roundly criticized by commentator Danny Mills (a former England fullback): “If he comes for that, he’s gotta clean everything out.” Everything meaning everyone. A year ago, we had Lee Dixon (former Arsenal and England defender) commenting “If you’re gonna come out as a goalkeeper, you take everything in your way, you take the players, the ball ...”
Violent thinking that is bound to result in violent action. If it is accepted by referees, you can see why goalkeepers get away with challenges that would likely be carded if committed by other players. Evidently, Grajeda thinks that way.
Why should that be so? What guidance does Grajeda get from PRO on situations like this? Strictly speaking, no guidance should be necessary, other than to apply the rules. But the rules are far too often read as though they do not apply to goalkeepers. This is a state of affairs that defies common sense, and for which no justification exists. PRO could greatly help by making it clear to its members that as far as being careless or reckless or using excessive force, the same rules must be applied to goalkeepers as to field players.