I seem to be doing too many of these articles, although my last one was a FanShot of Andrew Farrell's red vs. Vancouver. Writing one of these is bad enough, but two? In the course of only a few months? Yikes.
I want to be clear, my opinion as a Grade 8 (entry-level) USSF referee means nothing. Baldomero Toledo made his decisions on the field, and unless the MLS Disciplinary Committee says otherwise, his opinion is law. This column is to reinforce why those decisions were made last Saturday, NOT, why they were/could be wrong.
Being a journalist and a referee, I have to separate myself not just from the game as a fan, but from the referee's decisions as well. I just have a different (or incredibly unique) perspective than most and while it pains me to watch these videos over and over again as a fan, I want to improve as a referee as well and remove these types of plays from the youth levels that I work at now.
All of the embedded videos below are from MLSSoccer.com's highlights section of the NE vs. SKC match last week.
BENNY FEILHABER - YELLOW '34 - DISSENT
Okay, this seemed fairly straightforward to me at the beginning, until in the box score where the foul type was marked dissent. This was later corrected in the MLSSoccer.com stats section, but regardless, Toldeo got the situation correct. Toldeo saw Feilhaber go to ground, whistled and signaled towards the SKC goal. That means only one thing, he's getting booked for simulation/diving.
Initially when I thought he was booked for dissent, my two problems with this particular play were the stopping the live play and booking for dissent, not the dive, and these are more procedural than anything and it turns out Toledo was right. First, I've never seen play stopped to give a yellow for dissent, since it usually happens in a dead ball situation. Because this happened during live play, Toledo technically called an indirect foul on Feilhaber for dissent (this is covered in Law 12 for referees) and cautioned Benny for the dissent and not the dive. I actually had to look this one up after fact because I thought for sure that Toledo had, on a procedural level, screwed up. The lesson, as always, MLS referees are better than me for a reason.
DIMITRY IMBONGO - YELLOW '53 - DISSENT
Okay, this one was strange as well, since everyone assumed Imbongo had been booked for an errant elbow. But another correction here from the stats page says it was for dissent. I have no idea what Imbongo could have said while the Revs were about to take a free kick (that Imbongo himself had just drawn) but clearly Toledo was through dealing with Imbongo.
Imbongo and SKC's Aurelien Collin had been battling (and likely talking) the entire game. Now, how do you pick up a yellow for dissent on a foul that you just drew? I have no idea, and it's still possible that Imbongo was actually booked for persistent infringement or the elbow on Collin. But Imbongo, not for the first time, doesn't realize the situation of the game and his standing with the referee. More on that in a second...
DIMITRY IMBONGO - RED '64 - FOUL/SECOND YELLOW
When I see this play, I am just dumbfounded at pretty much one thing - why Imbongo continues to put his forearm/elbow into places IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE!
You have the ball, you have positioning on the defender AND YOU DON'T NEED TO SHIELD THE BALL WITH YOUR FOREARM IN ORIOL ROSELL'S NECK!!!
I had a lengthy Twitter discussion with a few people on Imbongo's immaturity on the field, including The Rebel Alliance Podcast's Renny Swan. Basically, Imbongo doesn't adjust to his situation or he refuses to. Every time he fails to get a call he wanders around the field confused and is generally surprised when he gets cards, something that probably factored into the first yellow, but who knows. I'm not sure all the blame falls on Imbongo here, clearly the coaching staff isn't trying to break this habit (or subbing him off while down two goals on a yellow, smooth Heaps), but if his antics after committing a foul weren't enough, he thinks its a good idea to remove his shirt and take his sweet time leaving the field.
If the Revs don't suspend Imbongo an additional game for that, I hope the MLS DC will. For those who think, well Aurelien Collin is a thug and started the whole thing, it doesn't matter. Collin knows how to play on a yellow card and never shows up a referee. He's got nine yellows this year, that leads MLS, but he knows how to play on a yellow card and is talented enough as a defender to not foul all the time. He also hasn't been sent off this year though I'm sure he's had an accumulation suspension or two.
Imbongo lacks soccer smarts at the moment. I don't want to change his playing style or his aggressive nature, but if he can't stay on the field he's a liability. You can't have a center forward who's played 533 minutes in 11 games (6 starts) have three yellows and three reds (two straight against Houston as Revs fans know). While he's been a revelation for the Revs attack at times this season, he's got just as many goals as red cards (three each) and with Charlie Davies' loan and Juan Agudelo returning to health, he might be finding himself watching a lot more soccer in the near future.
CLAUDIO BIELER - YELLOW 81' - FOUL
I need to calm down...here's a fairly straight forward one from Bieler going through the back on McCarthy. File this under the, you're up by two goals and that's just stupid department.
ANDY DORMAN - RED '86 - FOUL
Look, I know that Andy is trying to commit a tactical foul there, but there are better ways of doing it. Kamara said so as much after the match (if you didn't respect the hell out Kei Kamara before, you should, guy is a true professional) and he didn't finish the game on the field, instead heading to the locker room to receive treatment on his injured ankle leaving SKC with only ten men on the field to the Revs nine.
For anyone who thinks this is only a yellow, you're 100% wrong and I'll tell you why. First, Dorman comes in from behind, there's no doubt about this. I only use cardinal directions, modified to in front, left/right side or behind. So even if you're behind on the left side, you're still behind despite what our commentators say. Next, Dorman's first point of contact is almost at Kamara's knee, this makes the challenge "above the ball," and combined with the lunging follow through, this "endangers the safety of an opponent." Period. End of story.
Now, even if Dorman hadn't gone in and made contact high on Kamara's leg, there's no point to make this challenge. If Dorman was trying to just pick up a professional / tactical foul to stop the breakaway, practically leaving the ground to do so is a very ill-advised and it's unnecessary, resulting in the straight red.
STEPHEN MCCARTHY - YELLOW '92 - FOUL
Well, I was able to stick up for Toledo right up to now. This is comical on just about every level. First off, issuing an incorrect card for any reason, is incredibly bad, but thankfully Toledo was able to correct his error, but still will probably be rebuked by MLS PRO or someone.
Now, as for the foul, let's assume that Macca actually pulled down Benny., because that's what we have to assume based on Toledo's call. A yellow card is appropriate there, but nothing else. MLSSoccer.com's Simon Borg actually suggested in his Instant Replay segment (about 2 minutes in) that this is a red card situation because Macca is denying a goal scoring opportunity. Also comical, because the last man rule is for very clear cut situations (see Farrell vs. Vancouver) and not with several defenders around the box and the ball going away from goal. And I like that segment, but it's done from a fan perspective and should do more to educate the fans on the rules, not highlight differences in opinion between the Borg and the referees.
Now, Toledo's already established earlier in the game that Feilhaber was going down too softly. Why reward him so late in the game on essentially the same play? I think it would have been excessive to card Benny there (which would have been his second) but with so little time left, why not just let Shuttleworth pick the ball up and end the match a minute later? For those of you who decry the MLS referee's consistency, you'll get no complaints from me on this one.
I expect the MLS DC to have a lot more to say about this game, but unfortunately we won't know what plays they review aside from the cards. I would love to know their take on Macca's foul/Benny's Flop in stoppage time and if Imbongo will get an extra game for not leaving the field promptly. For a process that I think is great for MLS, I wish there was more transparency as to what is reviewed, punished, etc. I think it would help educate the players, coaches and especially the fans.
If the fans aren't educated properly on the rules and don't get feedback on controversial plays, they're going to think that Baldomero Toledo is just a card mongering referee who doesn't know what he's doing, when in fact, he had a solid game up until second half stoppage time.
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