MLS Referees Remain in Spotlight Despite Settling Contractual Agreement

By Douglas Smith
MLS Referees
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 of MLS action was full of drama, but all the talk seems to be about the referees. The “regular” MLS referees are back, but do a search on social media and you’ll find many people calling for the replacement refs. There were at least three games where the referee’s decisions became the biggest talking point over the action on the field. Perhaps the biggest issue with the current MLS referees is a lack on consistency.

The two late games featured some of the most controversial calls of Saturday action in the league. The FC Dallas match against the Portland Timbers had a double red card in the 39th minute. Michael Harrington and Je-Vaughn Watson were sent off by Sorin Stoica. In an off-ball incident, Watson seemed to throw a punch at Harrington and the latter reacted with a similar action according to the referee. The replay seems to show that Harrington grabbed Watson’s jersey, who then swiped his hand away, a normal action in that situation. Some may consider that the game was not effected by the actions of the referee, but it changed the tone completely before Dallas would emerge with a late win.

Allen Chapman was a big part of the clinching-goal sequence in the Seattle Sounders match with the Columbus CrewJustin Meram scored the tally just before the final whistle after Chapman looked to be talking with the Sounders. It is unclear if he blew the whistle to restart play and his positioning when he allowed Columbus to take the quick corner that was well inside the six-yard box. No one was covering the charging Meram and he had a good look at goal to curl the ball into the far corner.

In another instance, Lee Nguyen got a late goal for the New England Revolution to get their first win of the season over the San Jose Earthquakes. David Ganter allowed New England to take an extremely quick free kick that spurred a two-on-one, but Nguyen kept the ball and scored the winner. A closer look showed the ball may still have been moving and at least two Earthquakes standing next to Charlie Davies when he took the free kick. In this situation, the referee usually takes control to slow the free kick.

In the matchup between Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC, it may come as no surprise that Baldomero Toledo was a talking point. The first goal was a a penalty kick by Alvaro Saborio, who earned the penalty. Doneil Henry pulled on Saborio, who made the most of the action. It was a borderline call at best. Toledo would issue several cards and never consult the assistants. Steven Caldwell came in late with his studs up and argued the call vehemently. Toledo only issued the yellow on what looked to be the most egregious foul in the game. The game was dominated by RSL, but Toledo lived up to his reputation to make a ton of calls in the match.

There were other talking points across the league as the referees took the spotlight away from the play on the field. At least three of those calls directly affected the result of the match. Perhaps they are rusty after being out of action to start the season over a contractual dispute. It is clear they must improve and bring more consistent decisions.

Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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