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Soccer Blog

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b2ap3_thumbnail_12.pngThe World Cup has been over for a month, but I still can’t get the image of Joe Fletcher’s infamous failed handshake out of my head.  But it’s time to move on.


Back in my pre-adidas MLS days (2001 – 2006), everyone’s friend and MLS’ Vice President of Competition Dr. Joe Machnik publicly declared war on player dissent, recognizing that the evil menace could no longer go unchecked (it’s ruining telecasts!)… he often referred to dissent as “a stone in his shoe.”  It took several years and some really detailed referee instruction (including one of the ten 2009 U.S. Soccer Referee Program Directives) to finally make a serious dent in it. Remember the P’s we used to evaluate for dissent? I believe they were Public, Personal, Provocative… and Preki.  Anyway, good eventually overcame evil, the dissent outbreak was all but eradicated, and Dr. Machnik enjoyed a much more comfortable stroll through MLS stadiums.  That was five years ago.


Referee SprayThe introduction of vanishing referee spray (or as is also known – “shaving foam”) at the World Cup in Brazil recently could be the thin end of the wedge as far as technology and other “aides” for referees are concerned. While it was greeted with a fair amount of scepticism by some, its use proved to be well justified.


For the uninitiated, it was a canister of foam used by the referee to demarcate where the ball was to be placed at the taking of a free kick. It was also used to indicate where the defensive wall was to stand. All of this to ensure that the law was complied with; in other words that defensive players were no closer than 9.15 meters (10 yds) from the ball at the taking of a free kick.


This was used exclusively around the penalty area and not in any other part of the field of play.


Why is it necessary to have this foam in the first place? Clearly the answer is that the players cannot be trusted to retreat the required distance from the ball at the taking of a free kick, or that the offended team won’t move the ball forward when the referee’s back is turned.


b2ap3_thumbnail_The-World-Cup-014.jpgOK, so maybe I am a bit too self-confident when it comes to time management.


Before I jet off to Chicago at the crack of dawn on Friday to attend – of all things –  the 25th reunion of my college graduation, I sat down on Thursday evening to share my thoughts and observations of the 2014 Brazil FIFA World Cup.


That’s right.  On the 15th anniversary of the United States’ triumph in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final just down the street in Pasadena, I am at my desk pounding out my 14th career blog on  And, although I am filled with excitement for Sunday’s big game, I won’t be pulling off my jersey (or scoring the decisive tiebreaker kick from the penalty mark) any time soon.


b2ap3_thumbnail_ref.jpgUnlike the rest of the United States, I didn’t get to watch either of Monday’s World Cup Round of 16 matches live.


Living in the coolest neighborhood in the USA comes at a price (yes, I have a day job… and since you asked, I have NO IDEA why I was allowed to move into Silver Lake).  You might have read that Anthony Gonzalez, lead musician behind M83 (does programmed music have a lead musician?) just bought the home of my neighbor and longtime friend (that I have yet to meet) Mayor Eric (potty mouth Kings fan) Garcetti.


Proof positive: When properly motivated, thirty-somethings like Mr. Gonzalez can attain an amazing level of success.


Arjen-Robbens-theatricsFIFA has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It was a long hard battle but finally they’ve done it. They’ve brought in goal line technology (GLT) and introduced a system that has been in operation in other sports for many years – the white spray - at the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.


The GLT clearly indicates to the referee whether the whole of the ball has crossed over the goal line either in the air or on the ground, between the uprights and under the crossbar.


This system gives conclusive evidence if a goal has been legally scored or not.


The spray indicates where the ball is to be placed; in other words where the incident occurred and from where the referee has concluded that a free kick is to be awarded to the attacking team.


b2ap3_thumbnail_geigerwc.pngLeave it to Spain to grab headlines again on the world’s stage.  How the mighty have fallen, or as ESPN commentator Ian Darke expressed in the waning moments of today’s match: “The kings of soccer have abdicated.”


GROUP B, Match 19

18 Jun 2014 - 16:00 CET

Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro





Referee: Mark GEIGER (USA)

Assistant Referee 1: Sean Mark HURD (USA)

Assistant Referee 2: Joe FLETCHER (CAN)

Fourth Official: Nawaf SHUKRALLA (BHR)


Spoiler Alert:  Players win games.  Coaches lose games.  Referees spoil games… but not today.  Although it wasn’t always “poetry in motion,” our North American hybrid crew was again effective with their decisions and presence on the pitch.


b2ap3_thumbnail_geiger2014.jpgIt was an early Saturday morning after a late Friday night for this Blogger (so sue me if I go astray!)  After toasting the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings well into the wee hours of the morning… who am I kidding?  I was asleep before 11:30, with my alarm set for 8:00am in great anticipation of the debut of our hybrid North American officiating team in Brazil: 




GROUP C, Match 5 
14 June 2014, 18:00 CET 
Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte

Referee: Mark GEIGER (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Sean Mark HURD (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Joe FLETCHER (CAN)
Fourth Official: Alireza FAGHANI (IRN)



After two match days and four results in the books, we’ve already seen two games stained by officiating controversies (is “controversy” a strong enough word?).  So the referees and assistant referees managed to spoil only half of the games… reminding me of Jack Nicholson’s line in the 1996 film “Mars Attacks” after the aliens take out Congress:


b2ap3_thumbnail_ar.jpgThe month of May is a blur… and I’m glad it’s in the rearview mirror.


I split my time between willing my Los Angeles Kings into their second Stanley Cup Final in three years (those overtime games were exhausting!), and overseeing the rather complex Clippers transition of power (it’s been damn-near impossible).  It’s a good thing I have Commissioner Silver, Donald Sterling, Steve Ballmer, Rochelle Sterling and V Stiviano all on speed dial. We hope to wrap it up soon so that everyone wins: the Sterlings get a check, the Clippers (and their followers) have a future, and V gets her book-and-movie deal.


Spoiler Alert:  Sorry, Seattle… you can’t have my Clippers.


b2ap3_thumbnail_worldcupball.jpgNow that most domestic seasons have been completed and the international club competitions have reached their conclusions, with highs and lows on all fronts, we are gearing up for the “greatest show on earth.” The great Brazilian legend Pele once called it, “the beautiful game.”


The 2014 World Cup is “just around the corner” and the makeup and seedings have been completed. It just remains for the time to tick by to the June 12 launch in Rio de Janeiro.


By the time it reaches its climax on Sunday 13th July a new world soccer champion will be “crowned” to the acclaim of many and the disgust perhaps of some.


Tchani Gets Yellow CardFellow sports enthusiasts, it’s been one euphoric weekend here in Los Angeles… for pretty much everyone except Donald Sterling.


First, my Clippers managed to concentrate on hoops long enough to squeak past Golden State and into the second round of the NBA Playoffs, then my Kings stole the first game of their NHL Playoff Series from a bunch of Ducks, and everyone else (or so it seemed) took time to wish me a Happy Birthday.


Thank you, one and all, for making my birthday a special one indeed (especially Mark Zuckerberg… I couldn’t have done it without you, old buddy).   I wonder if Mr. Z is a CD Chivas USA fan…  I should give him a call, or send him a Facebook message… or a poke (whatever that is).


Jose MourinhoThe recent after-match comments by the coach of EPL club Chelsea is nothing short of appalling and disgraceful and could lead to match officials being put in mortal danger.


Jose Mourinho the Chelsea boss clearly and deliberately and, in my opinion, maliciously criticised the referee and the PGMOL head of referees Mike Riley.


He was apparently upset by some of the decisions of the referee Mike Dean after his team lost their game against strugglers Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, April 4, 2014.


The penalty awarded against his team was, in the opinion of some, dubious to say the least and resulted in Chelsea losing their first home game in nearly three years. (see 2:35 into the highlights below)



a1sx2_Thumbnail1_1_20140407-012957_1.pngBack in 2001 (plus or minus a year), when I was cutting my teeth as a National Referee, we welcomed former U.S. National Team and Kansas City Wizards coach Bob Gansler to our national camp in advance of the MLS season.  He was the first of several speakers to drill into our heads the importance of having the right “feel for the game” in order to interpret team tactics and individual players’ decision making – these are critical skills for referees, especially when officiating at a level much higher than you played at years before (and yes, that is the reality for every referee in the room… none of us played in MLS).


Fingerspitzengefühl is a German term, literally translating to "finger tips feeling" and meaning an intuitive flair or instinct, having superior situational awareness, and being able to appropriately and tactfully respond to changing conditions.  Mr. Gansler spoke of it eloquently that day (and without accent).  Later that day and throughout the next, Alfred Kleinaitis and Esse Baharmast echoed the rather profound message (but with more profound accents).  I think even Julie Ilacqua tried to work it into her vocabulary that weekend.


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