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Instant Replays in MLS: To Review… or Not to Review?

b2ap3_thumbnail_videoreview.jpgWe have lots to cover in this discussion, so let’s get right to it.


The introduction of Official Reviews (use of Instant Replay) in Major League Soccer is long overdue, and I fully support a roll out as soon as 2016… assuming U.S. Soccer and Sunil Gulati can somehow obtain the blessings of FIFA (lame duck) President Sepp Blatter.


At the risk of potentially “dehumanizing” the world’s most emotional sport… why should MLS use video replays?  Let me count the ways… and allow me to begin by stating for the record that not every idea shared in this article is my own, but you’ll soon see that my position is a bit more extreme than others.


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Fast Track at 40: Meet Robert Sibiga, MLS’ newest Referee

b2ap3_thumbnail_431.jpgEvery year or two, we read with great interest about the arrival of a new referee in Major League Soccer, and it’s usually all about reaching the pinnacle of a career after a journey of 12+ years of dedication, determination and incredibly hard work.  Mental anguish, battling burnout, overcoming the taunts of abusive parents (yes, the antics of spectators at a U10 game)… so many of our MLS referees were tried-and-tested first at the competitive youth level, and were then thrown into the deep fryer of ethnic amateur games for several years, where survival instincts advance the best and bravest to the next level. 


And it certainly helps if the ball takes a favorable bounce or two along the way.


The predominant unwritten rule (or at least the prevailing trend) suggests that officiating talent must be “discovered” before age 25 and continuously refined over ten or so years, so that we can herald the arrival of the next Brian Hall, Kevin Stott or Mark Geiger before the referee turns 35.


Of course, there are notable exceptions to nearly every rule, and that’s a very good thing.


Making up for lost time, Robert Sibiga, all of 41 years young, has arrived on the scene in Major League Soccer, and deservedly so after dedicating the last seven years of his life to studying, growing and advancing with the World’s Game.  To say he made up for lost time is an understatement, and if his first two MLS performances are a true indication of the man’s talent, we’re probably going to see a lot more of him.

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MLS Referee Alan Kelly's five star performance at the Citrus Bowl.

b2ap3_thumbnail_OrlandoFC.jpgAt last!  It's been long coming and, quite frankly, we thought we would never seen it.  But, it finally arrived.


No, we are not really talking about the start of the new MLS season this weekend.  Although, obviously, we are thrilled that the season started on time and without work stoppage which, as it was reported, was quite still probable just a couple of days before the kickoff.  


What we are talking about here is Mr. Alan Kelly's performance during a historic game between two new MLS expansion teams Orlando City SC and NY City FC in front of 62,000 fans at Orlando Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando, Florida.  


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Effective Refereeing: From Minute 1, Be Ready… for Anything!

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.


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MLS Players kicking while they’re down: Upon review, why the obsession?

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.


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