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.

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Is MLS too physical?

This is a story I worked on through much of the MLS season, but the timing to run it was never quite right. I just updated a couple of figures and posted it here instead.

Early in the MLS season, a couple of league coaches were tired of hearing that their teams were playing a bit rough.

“If you want to avoid contact, I would suggest badminton or curling or chess maybe,” Philadelphia coach Peter Nowak told the Delaware County Daily Times.

“If you want me to bring a lot of ballerinas I will,” then-Toronto coach Preki told TSN.

But players and coaches can’t agree on whether MLS is a “physical” league. One reason for the lack of consensus: They’re not really sure what “physical” means or how “physical” play affects the game.

Continue reading Is MLS too physical?