In front of a record setting sell-out crowd at the Home Depot Center, LA Galaxy came back from a 0:1 deficit to beat Houston Dynamo 3:1 and claim MLS Cup 2012. While the game was sloppy at times, it was also hugely entertaining and not entirely free from controversial refereeing decisions. The game was refereed by Silviu Petrescu, who also was voted the MLS Referee of the Year, and the assisstant referees were Daniel Belleau and Darren Clark. For the first time in MLS league history, the MLS Cup final was refereed entirely by a Canadian crew of referees. Mr. Petrescu, as expected, had his work cut out for him and, for the most part, we believe that he managed and refereed the game well. For example, Mr. Petrescu’s two penalty calls were spot-on. There is no doubt in our minds that the handball (first penalty kick) and foul on Robbie Keane (second penalty kick) were correctly called. However, a couple of his decisions – one involving the second penalty — merit additional scrutiny.
First, in the 63rd minute of the game, Mr. Petrescu disallowed Robbie Keane’s goal after spotting an alleged infringement on Omar Gonzalez (see video below). To Mr. Petrescu’s credit, he blew the whistle almost immediately after Gonzalez headed the ball and fractions of a second before Keane roofed the ball into Houston’s goal. However, while there was some contact between Gonzales and the Houston defender, Gonzalez’s challenge was fair and Keane’s goal should have been allowed to stand. In truth, there was plenty of contact between Omar Gonzalez and the Houston defender but soccer is a contact sport and that is to be fully expected. Here, both players challenged for the ball fairly and Mr. Petrescu should have allowed the play to continue.
Secondly, even though Mr. Petrescu’s decision to award the second penalty kick to LA Galaxy was correct, his choice of punishment for the infringement was wrong (see video below).
As video clearly demonstrates, in the final minutes of the game, Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall wrapped his arm around Keane’s thigh causing Keane to lose his balance and preventing him from taking what would have undoubtedly been an easy shot at the Houston goal. Importantly, the infringement not only occurred inside the penalty area but was also only 11 to 12 yards away from the goal. What’s more, the two closest Houston defenders were yards behind the entire encounter and would be unable to influence the outcome of the play, if Houston’s Hall did not foul Keane. All of these factors indicate that Houston goalkeeper denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity when he fouled Keane and should have been sent off. Instead, Mr. Petrescu chose to issue a caution. (for full discussion about the application of Law 12 in the context of “denying goal obvious opportunity”
read our previous posts here and here
Mr. Petrescu’s decisions did not affect the outcome of the game and LA Galaxy deservedly won the MLS Cup. Generally, we thought that Mr. Petrescu had a good game and especially had a strong performance in the first half. He did make a couple of mistakes but even the best of us make mistakes from time to time. We should learn from these, move on and strive to have a better game next time.
Let us know what you thought about Mr. Petrescu’s game performance.