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Soccer Blog

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b2ap3_thumbnail_brianhall.jpgI love autumn.  The leaves are turning color.  The air has become crisp (last night’s temp dropped to 52F).   My Clippers and Kings are off to a solid (if not entirely promising) start.  And so many Facebook friends are posting photos of their NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA playoff matches… some in short sleeves, others in long sleeves… and then there’s the occasional parka!


On December 14, all eyes will turn to Cary, North Carolina and WakeMed Soccer Park in anticipation of the 2014 NCAA Men’s College Cup.  A crowd expected to exceed 7,000 will witness the pinnacle of collegiate soccer, contested on a pristine grass pitch inside an impressive complex specifically built to showcase soccer.  WakeMed stands as proof (and one of nearly 20 modern examples) of just how far the World’s Game has progressed here in the United States.


Top Ten Soccer RefereesI’ve been asked many times whom I would consider to be the top 10 referees in the world.  This is a very difficult question of course. Unless you are objective there is the temptation to have your own particular favourite and that will naturally taint your judgement. I will name them – at the end of this piece.  I must also point out that the ones I’ve named are currently officiating and are not retired at the time of going to press.


First of all it’s important to select a criterion of what makes a good referee become a top 10 referee.


These are mine and in no particular order: 


b2ap3_thumbnail_FIFA-Referees.jpgThe success of USA FIFA referee Mark Geiger at the recent World Cup in Brazil appears to be a one-off. There are no more refs in the USA with FIFA potential. That’s it - NONE.


Well that’s according to the latest news from “Refereeing World” which recently published a list of referees for a seminar in “Prospective World Cup Referee.” They were drawn from CONMEBOL & CONCACAF and not one referee from the USA is listed.


It has to be stated that these are up-and-coming officials and not from the existing list. Still, that makes for disturbing reading and someone needs to be held accountable.


The obvious questions that have to be asked:


b2ap3_thumbnail_wooden_pyramid.jpgIn recent blogs, I have shared observations about what makes some of us “more effective” referees than others... such as being “Ready for Anything” or not rushing a call by “Counting to One.”  At the end of the day, wisdom and physical fitness are largely wasted if the referee isn’t effective in what he or she does on the field.  In sharing my thoughts, I’ve tried (in my own small way) to impart an idea or two that aspiring officials might consider working into their own officiating routine.


No free advice today.  And no one made the highlight reel, either.


Today, I would like to challenge every official to take timeout for some important introspection.  Think about how you reached your current level of officiating… and if you aspire to reach even higher, what do you need to focus on to achieve further advancement?


John R. Wooden, arguably the most successful collegiate basketball coach of all time, introduced his “Pyramid of Success” to develop UCLA student-athletes.  The “Wizard of Westwood” identified 15 key aspects, and then assembled them into a five-tiered pyramid, with the pinnacle being achievement of “Competitive Greatness.”


b2ap3_thumbnail_Juan-Guzman.pngOne of my recurring criticisms of MLS Referee performances this season is that on too many occasions, officials seemed hesitant, intimidated or just not ready – for whatever reason – to assert their authority from Minute One.  As the athletes try to get a feel for their opponents’ tactics, officials have demonstrated excessive patience (or just taken too passive an approach) in reacting to fouls that appear reckless and behavior that looks intimidating… just because they occur in the first few minutes.


As our youth and amateur referees grow and advance, their instructors, assessors and mentors stress over and over and over again: like the competing athletes, game officials must be ready to perform from the very first whistle.  “Carpe Diem” – Seize the day!  Get the game off to a solid start through intense concentration.  Set the tone early on.  Hustle.  Show everyone that you are there to perform.  And when the opportunity presents itself, calmly and decisively assert your authority.


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.


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_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.


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).


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