This column is going to focus on one major play from the midweek New England Revolution - Sporting Kansas City game.
Which is a shame because there was a lot of bad from Allen Chapman and his crew overall on Wednesday. Uncalled tactical fouls, inconsistency, poor game management, pretty much everything the casual fan can notice that means the man in the middle is having a bad day.
But it wasn't just Chapman who had an off day, his far side assistant flagged a level Diego Fagundez in the first half who thankfully flashed his effort wide. An apparent missed boundary call incensed Kelyn Rowe so much that former Revs player Benny Feilhaber had to intervene to prevent Rowe from picking up a yellow for dissent, which he would have deserved by the way.
But this column is going to focus naturally on the penalty call when Jose Goncalves tugged Dom Dwyer in the box in the 42nd minute:
Before I go into why this shouldn't be a penalty, I will concede this point. It's not an advised play by Goncalves but it's more of a better move from Dwyer. It catches the Revs defender off guard and despite a stumble, Dwyer is ready to continue the play and deserves credit for doing so. He didn't go to ground, played through contact and has all the respect from me in an age where soccer players are so often looking for the penalty. Dwyer wasn't and while I don't think he should be rewarded, he does need to praised individually before I rip Chapman to shreds.
Because it's not a penalty. And there are two main reason why but I'll get the actual rule based rebuttal first before I get more subjective later on.
Allen Chapman should've played advantage in this spot. Dwyer still has the ball, the play hasn't been affected and the game should have continued as normal.
Now, would SKC have preferred the penalty over the advantage in that situation, probably, but that's always going to be the case. There a number of reasons why you play the advantage here but this is where I have to get subjective. Because remember all that awful stuff I mentioned about Chapman earlier? That's the reason this play isn't a penalty.
Fouls do not occur in a vacuum. So while Goncalves' contact with Dwyer is likely against the rules, it doesn't mean that you blow the whistle every time it happens. I could call 100 fouls in a U-10 game every time someone clips a heel, but I don't because it ruins the game. Just like how you don't call offensive holding on every play in the NFL or traveling every possession in the NBA (but boy do they need to call that more) or a touch, reach-in foul on a guard in the NCAA tourney every other possession. There's a flow to the game that is in part dictated by the officials.
So when Allen Chapman spends most of the first half allowing tactical fouls to go unpunished, it seems strange to then switch gears and call a touch foul for a penalty. When Allen Chapman lets Scott Caldwell get away with a cross check on Paulo Nagamura earlier in the first half, it then seems strange to not allow play to continue for a foul that hasn't affected the play. And later in the game when Juan Agudelo gets pulled down going up for a cross, well, there's no such things as make-up calls kids.
That old saying "if it's a foul at midfield it should be a foul in the box" argument actually holds up here. Yes, I think at midfield that it's a foul. And I'm still playing the advantage cause Dwyer still has the ball. So why doesn't that work in the penalty area as well? Just a thought.
Here's the real problem with the Goncalves penalty. If we say that's a penalty, then that SKC-NE game should've had three penalties for in game, not one. If we say that's a penalty then we're going to see on average 2-3 penalties a game for the rest of the season. We're going to see games where each TEAM takes 2-3 penalties EACH because calls like this should become the norm now right? Allen Chapman has set the bar, there's basically no contact allowed in the penalty area anymore.
But we all know that's not going to happen, and yes, perhaps I'm being a little over dramatic. Again, Goncalves got eaten alive by a really good soccer move and I think that makes the contact look worse. In a vacuum, yes, it's against the rules. But is it a foul? No. Is it a penalty? In that situation? Never in a million years for me. Because the advantage rule is there for a reason, to be used to not blow the whistle at every opportunity.
Someone from D.C. United could commit that exact same infraction on Teal Bunbury or Charlie Davies today, and Mark Geiger could point to the spot. And you know what I'll say? The exact same thing. It's not a penalty. It might be against the rules, you might see it called as a cheap foul at midfield when advantage should be played but it should never be a penalty. Maybe in a game with 50 fouls and a dozen cards that's being called super-tight by a referee I can understand it, but again, that's the officials dictating the game as well, so it's slightly more understandable. But I don't have to like it that case either.
But penalties have always been a special thing, right or wrong, for better or worse, that's the way the game has been called in recent years. Penalties have to be earned by the offense, not given for every time they go down in the box or every time there's a 50/50 ball they don't get to. We see referees wave off penalties all the time that are probably fouls because the attacking player embellished, or so it seems that way. That's why is so frustrating to see this type of penalty whistled against Goncalves, because it's not the norm, it's not even close. Even if Chapman is technically correct by the rule book, everything else leading up to that point in the game led pretty much everyone to think it was a bad or soft call.
Allen Chapman did not dictate the game on Wednesday. He was wildly inconsistent, allowed too much contact at the beginning and tried to reign in control of the game with a penalty that he's lucky the rules can justify. And on a different day, I could say that it cost the Revs a point, but thankfully the New England defense wipes away that argument. Well, that an Diego flashing that shot wide when he was onside.
But Chapman will never change my opinion that advantage should've been the call there, because what Jose Goncalves did against Dom Dwyer late in the first half was only the third most logical penalty situation of the day.
Chapman missed the other two. And since I don't think we're going to average 2-3 penalties a game this weekend it's safe to say that Chapman isn't going to change the standard of what a penalty is with that call. Might as well follow loyal reader Ben Saufley on Twitter now since I'm sure he'll point out basically every time the "Goncalves" foul isn't called for a penalty for the rest of the season.
It's also nice to know that I won't have to write one of these for next week. Unless I want to gush about how awesome Mark Geiger is again.