The inconclusive no-goal call and other MLS controversies

In today’s MLS on NBCSN game (Philadelphia-Dallas), a potential equalizer from Blas Perez was cleared off the line.

Or was it? The consensus among the Twitterati and the great commentary duo of Arlo White/Kyle Martino was that Perez was robbed.

Actually, we don’t know. Here’s why.

The ball was suspended in the air, so we can’t look for a telltale patch of green between the ball and the line, as we often see when the ball bounces down off the crossbar. What we saw was something like this (obviously, minus the batting tee):

It's a goal! The ball crossed the line!
It’s a goal! The ball crossed the line!

Now watch what happens when we put the camera directly overhead:

Um ... oh. It's on the line.
Um … oh. It’s on the line.

Don’t trust me or my ancient camera? OK, here’s it is in video form.

Perez wound up getting the equalizer a couple of minutes later, much to the dismay of Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who believed he was fouled. He got little sympathy from anyone not connected with Philadelphia.

Check p. 117: “It is an offence to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e.g., at the taking of a corner kick.”

Now check the video. Was he impeded?

That’s a tough judgment call, honestly. At first, I thought so. Now I’m wavering.

Also a tough judgment call: The penalty kick that gave Vancouver a 1-0 win over D.C. United (game literally ended as I typed this sentence). Watch it first, then read this referee’s discussion.

The upshot is this: If a challenge is careless, reckless or used excessive force, it’s still a foul. Doesn’t matter if you got the ball. Players (and players-turned-commentators) argue this point all the time, and they’re wrong — if the referee thinks the challenge is careless, reckless, etc.

Here’s the video: Another tough judgment call.

We’ll close on one that wasn’t tough. This is a dive, folks.

Sounders fans should blame the duper, not the dupee

Seattle fans have had a frustrating season so far, victimized by a couple of late goals and a strange scheduling quirk.

One of those late goals came from a controversial call Thursday at Dallas. The only person I’ve seen defending Terry Vaughn’s call is MLSSoccer’s Simon Borg, dissecting the video here:

Non-embeddable video clip

So we hear that Seattle fans may make some sort of protest. Or not. Judging by what we’re seeing at BigSoccer, cooler heads have prevailed.

And that’s good, for several reasons:

1. Refs are human. No league operates without complaint. I’m still bitter about a few calls in last week’s Inter-Barca game, frankly.

2. This call was a tough one. Borg says Seattle’s Leo Gonzalez stepped on Jason Yeisley’s foot. Borg is surely outvoted (maybe we’ll take a poll here just to see), but it’s not an unreasonable point of view. And that’s after viewing several replays — Vaughn gets one look in real time.

3. Vaughn wasn’t the one who embellished (at best) or flat-out dived. That would be Yeisley.

So why get all worked up about someone who made a mistake — or not, according to Borg — in one of the most difficult, thankless jobs on Earth?

[poll id=”2″]

FC Dallas and the college conundrum

FC DallasWhen the news came through that FC Dallas had hired former Penn State head coach Barry Gorman as their new technical director, the reaction wasn’t hard to predict.

FCD owner Hunt Sports Group has lost a few fans. Among the issues: FCD’s head coach is Schellas Hyndman, the longtime Southern Methodist coach whose former players in college happen to include Clark Hunt.

So when you tell a few Dallas fans that the team is hiring a friend of Hyndman’s who has been in the college game for a few decades, that’s akin to announcing a Beatles reunion with Yoko Ono taking John Lennon’s spot.

From the comments at Buzz Carrick’s excellent 3rd Degree blog:

  • “Sounds like Barry just received a nice retirement bonus from the Hunts.”
  • “I wish the Hunts would go play family reunion somewhere else.”

The buddy system, though, shouldn’t be such a problem. Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid have always had “their guys” around. Real Salt Lake has an MLS Cup under the leadership of Dukies Jason Kreis and Garth Lagerwey.

But can today’s college game prepare a front-office executive to dig up and evaluate talent for an MLS team? BigSoccer blogger Bill Archer thinks not:

I don’t care what sport you’re talking about or what league, the people who are best equipped to identify and develop players who will succeed in that league are guys who have been there themselves, who’ve spent a lot of time playing and/or coaching there and have direct, intimate, personal knowledge of how you do and don’t succeed there. This guy brings none of that.

Indeed, not many people are making the jump from college to MLS in the head coaching or front office ranks these days. In the early days, Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid were plucked from the college ranks because that was one of the highest levels of soccer running in the USA before MLS launched. It helped that Arena and Schmid had college dynasties at Virginia and UCLA. As Archer points out, he has seen Sigi Schmid, and Gorman is no Sigi Schmid.

But there’s one reason why the wailing over Gorman’s hiring may be premature: The college game, like it or not, is still quite important in MLS.

Consider the New England Revolution, where Liverpool legend Steve Nicol has been in charge for nearly a decade. He’s not building the team through some questionable lower-tier signings from his friends in England. The roster has been replenished year after year through smart SuperDraft selections and the occasional scouting of African teams.

Gorman should have a good sense of who’s coming through the college ranks. That’ll put him one step up on many pedigreed coaches and personnel guys who came to MLS and failed.

Will that be enough to make him a valuable addition to the Dallas front office? Will Dallas outperform everyone in future drafts? Time will tell.

But it’s a gamble, to say the least. Dallas fans are casting skeptical eyes on the team these days, and the current regime will have little margin for error among the Hoops, er, Red Stripes faithful. (Really? You guys prefer to be named after a beer than a geometric shape? OK, then.)

Dallas has two more immediate concerns tonight. First, getting fans to make the trip to Pizza Hut Park on a school night. Second, dealing with a strong Seattle team and trying to avoid going winless in April. 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2 — game notes here.

Correction: First version of this post incorrectly referred to FCD’s new TD as “Danny” Gorman. Obviously, I had him confused with Danny Szetela.