Charlie Davies reputation as a diver has certainly plagued him as a member of the New England Revolution. His time at D.C. United was filled with a lot of penalty shouts and while there are times that you won't hear any complaints from me about Charlie, or anyone else on the Revs going to ground softly, I have a bone to pick with Charlie's latest yellow.
But first, we must discuss the 80th minute offside call on Kelyn Rowe against Sporting Kansas City.
If you go to the 6:00 mark in Simon Borg's Instant Replay segment above, you'll get the clip that clearly shows Rowe is onside and level with SKC defender Matt Besler, but is in fact judged offside in the game's play-by-play. Now, Davies is in an offside position but is never involved with the play until after Rowe plays the ball past SKC keeper Eric Kronberg who upends Rowe in the process. Even on the second ball from Rowe, Davies is still not offside, because at this point he's behind the ball when Rowe passes it into the center of the box. What should have happened was Davies taps the ball into the open net, Kronberg gets a yellow (or even a talking to) for upending Rowe and the Revs hold a 3-2 lead. Jermaine Jones made it 3-2 anyway, so a certain amount of justice prevailed.
If you want to look at a more questionable onside call, go to 5:30 in the video and see Lamar Neagle let an Obafemi Martins shot go by him in the Seattle Sounders-Chivas USA match. The offside rule was rewritten a few years back, not for the better in my opinion, and referees are trying to not go up with the offside flag so quickly. Neagle isn't technically involved in the play and the goal stands, and though you can argue that Neagle is interfering with Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy, generally that's an accepted goal now. The lesson for Neagle and Davies is, as always, don't be in an offside position in the first place.
Now we come to the second Davies play of the game, and this one is more of a technical issue than any problem with the call.
What's interesting, is that on MLSSoccer.com, this play actually is titled, "Davies swings up a late boot," which is exactly what he does, and this is a cautionable offense and it's very petty and unnecessary from Davies and I don't have a problem with the call. The play has long been over and it's a goal kick for Kansas City when Davies decides to play the ball that Igor Juliao is carrying. This is a bad decision...but not nearly as bad as the one Juliao makes, which is to full on slap Davies in the face.
And I guess it does get worse. The MLS Disciplinary Committee has fined, but not suspended, Juliao for violating the leagues hands-to-the-face policy.
Let's take these one at time. First, and by rule only, Juliao should've been sent off or suspended for slapping Charlie Davies. It's violent conduct and it's in the laws. You can't strike an opponent in the head, period, end of story. This is an old article from USSoccer.com which did a Week in Review series on referee calls years ago and the video link is dead but Clip 4 - Dallas-Salt Lake is the important reading. Somehow in a game back in 2008 there was a blatant slap to the head and it wasn't called. Here's a second and great example from everyone's favorite Zlatan Ibrahimovic:
Is this an incredibly stupid way to earn yourself a red card? It absolutely is. I'm not disagreeing anyone who says that's not really a red card or it wasn't violent, but that's the rules. You can't strike an opponent in any manner and in particular in the face. And, since Juliao was fined by MLS, that's basically an admission that a slap did take place and therefore, Charlie Davies yellow card for a "dive" (simulating the slap) should be rescinded as well. But since that will never happen, I'll settle for it being changed to unsporting conduct for trying to play a dead ball.
Should both Juliao and Davies been cautioned on this play, as Borg mentions late in his video, yes. And I wouldn't object to the call in any way, because I don't think Juliao is trying to strike Davies just separate himself and protect the ball to restart play. But right now, the law says that Juliao should've been sent off and he should've been suspended by the MLS DC. But, I will give the MLS DC some credit, while I don't like the policy, they've been very consistent issuing fines for this type of thing. Even if I think they're doing it wrong.
I'll take a parting shot at the leagues "hands-to-the-face" policy as well, since as I've already wondered aloud why this policy exists in the first place and openly groan on Twitter every time I see it, mostly because I have a sixth sense these things. In the leagues' original 2013 press release for points of emphasis going into last season, hands to the face was an odd read. Mostly because in a dead ball situation like Juliao's (goal kick) and Ibrahimovic's (free kick) plays, that's the exact time when you shouldn't be putting your hands in someone's face, because that's where the most red cards come for slapping an opponent. You shouldn't have a point of emphasis on something that subverts an actual rule, which technically what this is doing in my opinion. You don't have to agree with that which is perfectly fine, but if I were to go back and look at all the times MLS has fined someone on the hands-to-the-face policy I'd probably wonder why a red card wasn't issued most of the time in dead ball situations.
Now, does that mean that everyone should get suspended for a hands-to-the-face situation? Of course not, we'd have red cards probably every week. But would I like to see a tougher policy against it in way of a larger fine (preferably disclosed) or suspensions for second offenses? Absolutely. But for the most part, these plays are more isolated incidents and not widespread, particularly in the field of play and despite my personal feelings for the rule and/or punishments, I think the league's crackdown of these types of plays has been for the better.