Friday, December 26, 2014

Another blown call costs Union a win

The contact on Sebastien Le Toux late in the Union's 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids should have resulted in a penalty kick.

Another blown call costs Union a win

Let's get straight to the point: that was a penalty. It looked it in real time, and it looked it every time I watched the replays when I got home from PPL Park. Drew Moor was all over Sebastien Le Toux once Le Toux headed the ball forward, and the contact that he created was more than incidental.

As I watched the play on my TV at home, I froze the DVR at three specific points. You can see them above. The first was just outside the box, when Moor quite visibly had a handful of Le Toux's jersey. The second was inside the box, when Moor's knee hit the back of Le Toux's knee. The third came after that contact, as Le Toux started to go to the ground. You can see that the players are still quite clearly tangled up, and I think Moor might still be holding Le Toux's shirt.

So add this to the list of calls and no-calls that have gone against the Union this season. I don't think there's anything overarching going on here, I just think it's bad refereeing. And in the defense of today's officiating crew, they got both offside calls exactly right. But in the last half hour or so of the game, Terry Vaughn seemed to call things a bit more loosely than he had earlier in the game.

In particular, I think Jamie Smith should have been sent off for charging into Roger Torres from behind in the 86th minute. Smith was booked, which is better than nothing, but that was a pretty hard shot he delivered.

Speaking of Torres, I thought he played very well today. Playing as a substitute for the second straight game, he did not struggle to get into the rhythm of the match the way he did on Wednesday. Torres held the ball well under pressure, playing in a central role with Justin Mapp on the right and Fred on the left, and played the ball that sprang Le Toux for the run into the box.

Torres also did good things when he didn't have the ball. I especially liked how he made the run towards the through ball from Justin Mapp right after Le Toux got decked. The ball was a bit too far ahead, but that's the kind of play Union fans should hope to see more of.

You'll hear from Torres, many of his teammates, and both head coaches in the audio player below. But before then, let's go back to the not-called penalty at the end of the game.

Kerith Gabriel of the Daily News spoke with Terry Vaughn after the match. He was the only reporter to do so, as he was the designated pool reporter for the day. The way the system works is that if the media wants a statement from the referee, one pool reporter is designated and is allowed to ask two questions and a follow-up.

Vaughn was asked what he thought of the Le Toux play. His answer was: "I did not see enough on that play for it to warrant a foul or a penalty." I think I know why: he was really far behind the play when it happened. This picture shows where Vaughn was standing when Torres played the ball for Le Toux - well behind Torres in the Union's half of the field. This picture shows the point at which he got to the edge of the 18-yard box, eight seconds later.

From the quotes we were given, it was not clear whether Vaughn had yet seen a replay or not when he spoke with Kerith. It's worth nothing, though, that Vaughn said much more than Koman Coulibaly ever has.

And I'll say something else in Vaughn's defense: I don't expect him to get from one end of the field to the other in two seconds. Which means it falls on the linesman to also be paying attention. Vaughn has the final say, but if a linesman thinks there's a foul he is well within his rights to raise his flag and get the referee's attention.

Not surprisingly, Peter Nowak had a lot to say about the matter. You can hear the whole thing in the audio player, but here's a partial transcript:

We can control what we can control, but I believe it was a clear penalty, there's no question about it. Whatever we said, and we tried to find answers, I don't think there's any explanation right now. Either "I didn't see it" - well, you're the one who's supposed to see it. As I said after the last game, if 18,000 people see it, how is it possible that three or four men cannot see it?

[...]

I understand that the game is based on mistakes and human errors, I understand that the decision needs to be made in a split second and that sometimes it's not an easy decision. And then being in these weather conditions for 90 minutes, and then maybe somebody's running in front of you. But that's why we have the fourth official who has a radio. That's why they have the communication - they can see it as well. Whatever you can say about the main refere, I can understand. But that's why we have a fourth official with a radio - that I hope is on.

[...]

In the situation like with Sebastien this afternoon, or Sebastien against Shalrie Joseph against New England - if any of the Designated Players were in this position, what would you do? Because that's the part that I don't understand. Watching the other games, and having the calls made for those guys, but as I said, what else can we do to make clear that the main referee will see it, the fourth official will see it, and the linesman will see it.

[...]

It looks to me like the officials, they don't want to be seen in the spotlight as being "home referees" that make this call or this call based on the crowd. That's why for me, it's a little bit tricky or a little bit dangerous. If you have pre-bias coming into this game, or whoever we're going to play in the future, you're thinking first: "Philadelphia is a very physical team, so watch out for the elbows."

If the official is coming with this kind of pre-bias to the game, and on the flip side is saying, "We're not going to give them too much," because this home crowd is a Philadelphia crowd that's hard and tough and they will try to influence the game - this is a sophisticated crowd. They watch the game all around the world, they watched the World Cup. as well. So if it's a foul in the World Cup, it's a foul, it's a penalty, and everyone knows that.


As for Colorado coach Gary Smith, it was clear that the Englishman had no problem with the style of the game.

I thought the game was competitive all around. I didn't think there was anything outrageous. The referee saw a decision to give out cards - I may question that, others may question that. I thought some of the decisions he made were strange, for and against. I thought it was very well-fought and competitive, two teams that for one reason or another wanted full points. And in the end, both come out with one.

The Rapids have some real quality players on their roster, such as Mehdi Ballouchy and Omar Cummings. But as a whole, the team was clearly out there to play physically against the Union, and to clog the midfield and make the game ugly. Colorado has played this way for much of Smith's season and a half in charge at the club.

There are people out there who will tell you that it is not a coincidence that Smith is English. I am not fond of stereoptyping people to a certain soccer culture based on nationality, because the game is much more complex than that. But on a day like this, I think we can see the point.



Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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