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.

Philadelphia Union: The latest team to mishandle Freddy Adu

Start here:

“Candid” is one thing. Another is “telling everyone we have this high-priced player we’re desperate to unload, and if we can’t unload him, we’ll just be eating his salary rather than playing him, but please don’t make us do that.”

Source: “Dear Season Ticket Holders”.

An SB Nation commenter put it well: ” I’m fine with Adu leaving for nothing if it means the Union get his salary off the books, but as it stands, unless Hackworth gets a bidding war going, no team has an incentive not to lowball.”

Another item in that letter that should make the River End shudder:

And I think it’s time to clear up another misconception…
I know that the draft board described him as a forward, but we did not pick Don Anding as one. We picked him because he was literally one of the most athletic players available in the draft and in fact, the fastest player at the Combine.

Via another SB Nation/Brotherly Game post, we get this scouting report: “Technically a little choppy at times but makes up for it with his speed … As a winger he may not have the soccer IQ to man the position.”

It’s 2013, and American soccer teams are still drafting players based on speed and athleticism? Do we need Claudio Reyna to travel down I-95 and whack someone with a copy of the U.S. Soccer curriculum?

No wonder they couldn’t make much use of Freddy Adu.

Peter Nowak: We must break you

If you saw the MLS season opener, you saw one of two things, depending on your view of the world’s game:

1. A bunch of whiny Seattle players diving and moaning with pre-existing injuries.

2. A bunch of thuggish Philadelphia players knocking Seattle players to the turf.

We can’t really say Philly coach Peter Nowak, one of the league’s all-time best players, has been on the defensive about it. He’s very much on the offensive. If you can’t take a little bumping and kicking, he says, find another sport. From the Delaware County Daily Times:

“If you want to avoid contact, I would suggest badminton or curling or chess maybe. That’s how we play the game. This is a man’s game. If you want to compete, let’s compete.”

That’s a questionable comment on several levels:

1. Man’s game? Has Nowak ever seen the U.S. women play? No one should ever accuse them of a lack of toughness.

2. Some of us slipped badly the first time we tried curling. Some of us also plan to cover a bit of chess in our shiny new multisports blogs. And Olympic-caliber badminton will make anyone rethink definitions of athleticism. But fine, none of them are “contact” sports.

3. The fouls against Seattle looked like fouls from here, especially the only one that made the highlight video here:

Make no mistake — Nowak knows what he’s doing. He’s a sought-after coach for several reasons, and one is that he’ll stick up for his team. Before the season, he told me the Union supporters, who existed as a group before MLS was even close to awarding an expansion team, wanted to see passion, commitment and fight. His players will bring that, or he’ll yank them off the field. No doubt about that.

But since MLS is a man’s game, he might need to find some men who can play defense without landing a flying knee to the backside. And he knows that, too — he’s already shaking up his backline.