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Soccer Blog

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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.


b2ap3_thumbnail_refpic.jpgI’ve been away too long, or so I was told. 


After trying to help – in my own small way – settle a labor dispute and get PSRA’s dedicated and hard-working officials back on the pitch (some will argue my big mouth helped the cause; others might suggest I nearly killed it), I spent the last two weeks dodging Southern California earthquakes after totaling my over-priced European luxury sedan (you might be surprised how easy it is to total one… I mean how quickly the damage adds up, not how simple it is to rear-end a utility truck). 


In fairness, I was reaching for a pen to write down a great idea for my next blog… which wasn’t all that great.


Thank goodness this weekend wasn’t a total loss.  Nine games on the docket for MLS Week 4, or as I prefer to call it, MLS Week 2*.


Oxlade-ChamberlainA most bizarre and unacceptable situation occurred last weekend in the English Premier League.


Instead of being a day of celebration for the Frenchman, it turned out to be somewhat of a nightmare as his team were thoroughly thrashed 6 – 0 by table topping Chelsea.


The game in question was the top of the table clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London and was the 1,000th game for the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.


The ball was played into the Arsenal penalty area and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the “gunners” defender, deliberately handled the ball as it was going wide from a shot by a Chelsea attacker.


b2ap3_thumbnail_gomezpenalty.jpgYou always know who your friends are when there’s crisis. At a time when referees are being attacked on all fronts, both verbally and physically, the last one you would expect to be joining the queue is your national association.


Referee Victor Gomes, an up-and-coming match official with enormous potential, is under “attack” from his own association. An anonymous member of the South African Football Association is quoted in a Sunday sports paper as saying Gomes needs to be referred to a psychologist.


b2ap3_thumbnail_MLSLOGO.pngTime, patience and reason have apparently run out.


This morning at 11:00 am Eastern, the management of the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) announced that it has locked out members of the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), and that PRO will schedule replacement officials for the eight Major League Soccer matches that will be played this weekend.


After contacting PSRA leadership this morning and informing them of the lockout decision, PRO General Manager Peter Walton informed a gathering of 25 officials in Orlando at 10:30am Eastern.  In a somber 20-minute meeting, Walton instructed the referees to alter their flight itineraries and return home, and that their compensation and health insurance benefits had stopped effective immediately.  The officials had flown to Orlando for three days of instruction and training in advance of this weekend’s games, and most were scheduled to fly directly to their "game cities" later today.


b2ap3_thumbnail_lawsofthegame.jpgWelcome to February. The Sochi Games are off to a rather curious start… $50 billion apparently only buys you a half-assed half-pipe these days.  Fortunately, that sorry memory has been erased by the amazingly heroic efforts of several Los Angeles Kings representing their countries, especially the U.S. of A. 


The Midas touch of one Philip Anschutz is everywhere.


February’s other big story: Some idiot celebrated a goal by head-butting the Plexiglas covering of his team’s technical area.  This brilliant move was, of course, caught on video that went viral… about the same time my GI tract went viral and I spent 24+ hours in bed, reading why head-butting Plexiglas should/should not be considered Violent Conduct (which, the last time I checked, needs to be committed against a person and not an industrial-strength polymer).


Referee Neil SwarbrickWe are no different than most of our fellow referees who, from time to time, vigorously shake their heads in disbelief and amusement when something unexpected – nay, idiotic – comes out of supposedly knowledgeable game commentators’ mouths.  Now, we will admit that this sort of comes with the territory.  They are, after all, paid to be entertaining and perhaps saying something controversial that boosts the ratings.  We get that.  But sometimes they take things too far and, by sounding authoritative, they actually create and sow confusion among the fans of the beautiful game and in the process make our already difficult jobs even more difficult.


Van Persie FoulWhen we join up to become a referee, we undertake to carry out our duties to the best of our ability without fear or favor. That, in theory, is how it is supposed to work.


Having watched recent games one could easily be forgiven for thinking otherwise.


It has long been speculated that the “red devils” enjoyed preferential treatment from certain top refs operating in the Premier League.


b2ap3_thumbnail_usreflogo.jpgA strange month of January has come to a really strange end.  As we flip the calendar, our attention turns to The Big Game in New Jersey and the Bigger Weekend in Orlando for our PRO brothers and sisters.


Strange month, indeed.  A week ago, after months of advance promotion, more than 50,000 local hockey enthusiasts filed into Dodger Stadium (and my Los Angeles neighborhood), “witnessed” a great NHL game (about half of them only saw the puck on the Jumbotron) and a totally thrilling fan experience… some even picked up their trash on the way out.


NHL Stadium Series:  Mission Accomplished.  Well done, Gary Bettman.  You found a way for the NHL’s per game attendance to surpass MLS’ (for now).


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