How bad was the Toronto FC - New England Revolution game last Friday?
It was so bad, readers commented on last week's post about how much time I would need to write this week's post(s). It was so bad, people on Twitter feel better about commenting on a referee's call/preformance because I agree with them. It was so bad, I had to come up with a title for my new, apparently weekly feature post, breaking down whatever I feel necessary from last weeks' game. Goals, non-goals, missed calls, cards, you name it. It's all up for review so long as my eyes don't fall out. I'm half serious about that last one, this week was brutal.
Therefore I give you The 3rd Yellow - who's namesake is in honor/remembrance of English international referee Graham Poll, who in the 2006 World Cup showed Croatia's Josip Simunic three yellow cards (61st, 89th and 93rd minute) before sending him off. Yes, even World Cup caliber referees occasionally have brain farts, but the key is to learn from them. That's why I keep writing these, so that you, the reader (and to a lesser extent, I the Grade 8 USSF referee) can learn something.
But it's not always about the referee or his assistants, although I assure you I'll have more of that tomorrow. Today is all about goals and non-goals, and in this case, what not to do on defense as the other team scores a goal. Because I'm an equal opportunity educator - Revs, refs, opponents, it doesn't matter, who or what.
GOAL - New England - Diego Fagundez (2')
There are very few lessons that I learned while playing soccer at the age of six, but two of them come into play on this goal. First, always crash the back post. Second, never watch the ball on defense, watch your man.
Well, Diego Fagundez absolutely knows to crash the back post, he's kind of been doing that all year. But it's the Toronto defense that inexplicably loses track of him. Now, to be fair, Kelyn Rowe ends up with four guys surrounding him but still has an angle and space to shoot, so there's a problem right off the bat. It's the fifth defender for TFC, Richard Eckersley, who ends up blocking the shot. But Eckersley was originally marking Diego as the play entered the box, so if he's making the block in front of keeper Joe Bendik, who's marking Fagundez?
There are two possible answers to that question, the first is midfielder #19 Reggie Lamb, who is hanging around the top of the box not really doing anything. The second person, and the more likely is defender #4 Doneil Henry, who not only gets beat 1v1 by Rowe, but realizes very late (after stopping once Rowe had shot originally) that Fagundez is unmarked on the back post.
Either way, the Toronto defense is mesmerized by the dazzling run of Rowe and clearly doesn't have time to look away and find the Revs leading scorer, who is standing wide open on the top of six.
GOAL - Toronto FC - Andrew Wiedeman (45+2')
Another thing that I learned about soccer (and sports in general) at the age of six - always play the whistle. Because nobody cares what you think about a particular play, especially the referee.
Now, Toronto has a free kick from just inside the Revs' half, so like 55 yards out. Not exactly a dangerous set piece unless Eckersley drops it on top of the penalty spot. Which is exactly what he does, but still, the ball eventually falls to the Revs' Chris Tierney who clears - into the arms of TFC's Steven Caldwell.
Okay, there's a lot going on besides Eckersley's perfect cross into the box. One, there's a lot of contact in the box, a lot of it from Caldwell and Henry, but it's pretty much everyone, so I'm okay with the play on. Two, how many times does Doneil Henry foul Jose Gonsalves throughout the sequence (seriously, he's all over JoGo, and before anyone screams "homer" from Toronto, remember that the same thing disallowed a goal later) AND does the initial clearance from Chad Barrett hit his hand? Three, after the deflection off of Caldwell, five Revs put their hands in the air (Lee Nguyen, Rowe, Scott Caldwell, AJ Soares and Juan Agudelo) and then basically stand there...
But all is not lost! Andrew Farrell clears the initial shot away in front of goal. Normally I'd say this is a good thing, but Farrell hasn't pushed the defensive line forward to put TFC into an offside position. He's keeping two players onside. One of them is Wiedeman, who collects a simple pass from Henry, turns and scrambles it into the net past Matt Reis. Would Farrell pushing forward have prevented this goal? Possibly. But quite frankly the whole play is a mess and it's compounded because half of the Revs are looking for a call that's never coming instead.
NON-GOAL - Toronto FC - Steven Caldwell (87')
This is going to be a lesson in consistency for MLS. Caldwell gets involved in aerial battles throughout this game and there's no consistency to any of the challenges. Some are let go, others are called and while referee Fotis Bazakos can call a foul on Caldwell for interfering with Goncalves (and to be fair, he does so fairly quickly here, almost as the ball's entering the goal), it's certainly not the worst infraction of the day. Quite frankly, there's way more going on during the goal that Toronto actually scored than what Caldwell did here.
But it's the consistency of the call throughout the match that creates the havoc on this play and a very irate Steven Caldwell. But Bazakos isn't guilty of a bad call here, what he's guilty of is not being consistent throughout the day. Regardless, I'm sure Toronto would still be upset, after all they've just had a goal waved off. But if you're going to let players have at it on set pieces, then be consistent. Clearly on the first Toronto goal, everything was fair game, but here a very visible (and probably soft) climbing of the back gets called?
I can generally justify any specific call made by a referee, but if someone brings up the consistency argument (and they keep doing it) I can only shrug my shoulders.
Here's a tip for everyone jumping up for a ball - just keep your hands down or near you. Reaching out or putting your hand on someone's shoulder is a very easy excuse for any ref to blow a whistle. There was a ton of this going on during this game, especially in the second half, and while it wasn't being enforced consistently, it doesn't mean that you should continue to do it. Because eventually it's going to get called.
We're going to cover Caldwell's reaction to the goal being waved off tomorrow, but here's a preview - if he doesn't get suspended by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for what he said, I'm going to recommend disbanding the MLS DC.
PENALTY SHOUT - New England - Dimitry Imbongo
Clearly the Revs have a case here (less so with the Agudelo-Henry play earlier in the game), as Eckersley clearly has a hold of Imbongo's arm and they go to ground. I'm not surprised the penalty isn't awarded so late in the game (Imbongo's reputation possibly a factor but mainly it was timing), but regardless it brought up a talking point after the game:
The Revs have only been given one penalty all year, Saer Sene's miss from early in the season.
That's it, that's the list. In contrast, the LA Galaxy have been awarded eight and I can assure you that some of those involve less contact than what brought down Imbongo in the box. And I get that most of the calls are 1v1's that involved Rowe or Diego ending up on the ground and they're usually smaller than most defenders. But Imbongo isn't exactly small, and he's known for being physical. So how does a big physical target forward not get up in the air for a cross like that? It's fairly easy, someone prevented him from doing so.
So why don't referee's ask themselves this question? Easy, they have to see the contact to make the call. Now, without knowing where Bazakos was in relation to the play, there's not a lot of traffic in the box and the two players are essentially facing the referee so it's clearly gone down as incidental contact since Imbongo isn't whistled for simulation (which would've been comical) and the game continues without further incident.
With all of that being said, this game was destined to be a 1-1 draw, and that's what it finished as. The Revs made few attacking adjustments and settled down to play defense and bunker up and that went poorly. The equalizer was coming long before TFC might've handled the ball twice and scored or whether Caldwell tucked one inside the post with an arm on Goncalves' shoulder.
The scoreline reflected the game, but the number of people on the field at the end did not. Tomorrow, I give you the top three people who should've seen red from this game.