MLS CONFIDENTIAL: Clint, Cobi and the 'last man'

By Ridge Mahoney, Senior Editor
Soccer America Magazine

CLINT VS. COBI: For one of the few times in their careers, second-year Rev Clint Dempsey and 10-year Galaxy veteran Cobi Jones squared off Wednesday night in their teams' 1-1 tie at Gillette Stadium.

Dempsey missed their earlier meeting, a 1-1 tie on the Fourth of July at Home Depot Center, while training with the U.S. for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Before Dempsey made it to the pros, however, he and Jones did square off. While preparing the U.S. under-20 team for the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships, former coach Thomas Rongen scheduled a scrimmage against the Galaxy.

In a bid to win a spot in the starting 11, Dempsey spent most of the scrimmage trying to nutmeg Jones. He finally succeeded, and shortly thereafter, was hammered to the ground via a crunching tackle imposed by a rugged, red-haired Galaxy defender.

When quizzed about the incident, the ex-defender responded in the best tradition of his current position, that of sports executive.

Said Metros GM Alexi Lalas, "I can neither confirm nor deny that I may have taken certain measures with that particular young player, or any other young players for that matter, who may have been somewhat reluctant to show the older players, like Cobi and myself, the respect that they deserve."

REF WATCH: Referee Marcel Yonan made some tough decisions in the Revs-Galaxy game regarding when a foul should be punished with a yellow card.

Early in the second half, Shalrie Joseph passed the ball right to opponent Chris Albright, who stormed up the field. Joseph sprinted to cut in front of Albright and as he tried to win the ball back, he tripped Albright near the midfield line.

Yonan whistled for a foul but properly didn't caution Joseph, who had closed enough ground to get in front of Albright and simply clipped the Galaxy defender in an attempt to get the ball.

Later in the match, Galaxy midfielder Paulo Nagamura intercepted a pass with his arm near the penalty area, but wasn't cautioned. Landon Donovan protested bitterly that the ball had struck Nagamura on the chest, and Donovan went into the book for dissent.

James Riley and Pete Vagenas were cautioned in the final minutes for obvious tactical fouls.

MORE REF: Yet another reference was made by commentators to the "last man" in ESPN2's telecast of the Galaxy-D.C. United game last weekend.

There is nothing in the rules stipulating a referee must send off a player who commits a tactical foul as the "last man," "last defender," or "last opponent." A referee is so directed by the rules when the attacking team "denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick."

In the case in question, the foul was committed 40 yards from the defender's goal. Referee Kevin Stott brought out a yellow card, not a red.

ROLFE THE RIFLE: No one could have been surprised that it was rookie Chris Rolfe, whose craftiness belies his rookie status, who scored for Chicago in its 3-1 loss to AC Milan Wednesday.

Andy Herron twice broke through and shot from close range but couldn't get the ball into the net. Rolfe equalized by gliding across the top of the penalty area and crisply firing a low left-footer into the side netting.

"It was the most memorable goal I've had," said the University of Dayton product who is on the Fire's developmental roster. "It was a special goal. That was a much bigger celebration than I've ever had.

"We were out there on Soldier Field. It felt the same. If I had sat there and thought about it, I would have been like 'What am I doing out there?' You don't have time to think about it. You're just playing soccer with 11 other guys."

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