MLS announcers betray their ignorance by calling referee Toledo’s penalty “ridiculous”.

LA Galaxy completely outplayed and obliterated Seattle Sounders in the Home Depot Center stadium yesterday. And Robbie Keane had a particularly good game scoring three out of four goals for the LA Galaxy. Controversially, Robbie Keane’s hat-trick came thanks to referee Baldomero Toledo’s two crucial decisions. First, referee Toledo awarded a penalty kick to LA Galaxy for a foul on LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes by Seattle’s Jimmy Traore in the 32nd minute of the game. Secondly, when Robbie Keane’s penalty kick shot was saved by Michael Gspurning, referee Toledo ordered that the penalty kick be re-taken because two Seattle Sounders players encroached into the penalty area before the penalty kick was taken. Robbie Keane did not make the same mistake twice and buried his second-chance penalty kick.

There has been a lot controversy concerning referee Toledo’s decision to award the penalty kick. Some of this controversy must have been stirred by the game announcers’ proclamations that Mr. Toledo awards “twice as many penalties as any other referee in MLS” and that this “was a ridiculous penalty call” because it was “100% percent professional, good tackle.” (See video below.)

We wholeheartedly disagree with this commentary and, more importantly, the commentators’ conclusions. Indeed, we believe that Mr. Toledo got it 100% right!

The criticism of Mr. Toledo’s call appears to originate from the fact that Seattle’s Traore was observed to get to the ball first or that he got the whole of the ball with his right foot. However, the fact that a player got to the ball first or got the ball does not make his tackle legal.

Indeed, in its August 5, 2011 Memorandum titled “I Got the Ball”, the United States Soccer Federation emphasized that:

  • Getting the ball first does not make a tackle legal
  • Getting the ball first but following through with the rest of the body in a careless or reckless manner or using excessive force does make the tackle illegal
  • “Getting the ball” cannot be used as an excuse for committing a tackle which is out of control

In the situation at hand (see video above), Seattle’s Taore got to the ball first. However, his tackle was obviously reckless as he did so by lunging after the ball. Importantly too, as he continued to slide through, Taore’s trailing left leg violently upended LA Galaxy’s Zardes. Referee Toledo was absolutely right when he blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. Thus, ironically, it was ridiculous on the part of the game commentators to call this reckless and illegal tackle “100% percent professional, good tackle.”

After making the difficult penalty call, Mr. Toledo had more courage and ordered that the penalty kick, which was saved by Seattle’s Gspurning, be retaken because two Seattle defenders encroached into the penalty area before the penalty kick was taken (see picture below). These violations are rarely enforced and we applaud Mr. Toledo for making this courageous call.

Let us know what you think about the announcers and Mr. Toledo’s decisions.

Categories: Laws of the Game

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