The Paul & Hall Show, week four

Others may sit and lament that they once again forgot to record tonight's game. Not me! I'm going to listen to Paul Tamberino and Brian Hall talk about calls I barely remember.

Actually, I think referee discussions can be extremely interesting. Maybe not this week, but we'll see what, if any, reaction we get to the Jason Kreis meltdown. If I were in charge, I'd queue up Real Salt Lake's greatest hits this season, and see whether Kreis has a point.

I'll bet he doesn't, though. Partisans always remember the calls that went against them, and completely forget the bad calls that were in their favor. If Kreis had simply railed against the low quality of refereeing...well, he'd still be out of line, in my opinion. Keep in mind, expansion years for MLS mean expansion years for referees. Just like it's going to take a few games for the Earthquakes to get good again (like, a hundred or so, if ever), it's going to take borderline refs a few games to get to a first division level (like, a hundred or so, if ever).

But the fact that Kreis complained that his team was being targeted unfairly - well, that's simply delightful. Maybe Jason can take his week off, check out the Lakers-Jazz series, and see what biased refs really look like.

Anyway, Paul thinks the referees two weeks ago were awesome. Brian said they were fantastic. "We did not see any decisions by the assistant referees that took away a goal-scoring opportunity."

The first topic for the week is about sideline antics. "While not every team is out of control with bench behavior," says Paul, "what we're seeing is that some disruption on the benches, either by head coaches, assistant coaches, and also by the players in unison objecting to the referee's decision. And this is what we want to cut down on, and have the benches behave in a responsible manner." Oh, man. Kreis got off easy.

Brian isn't happy with insulting, either verbal or visual. At first I thought this was about Preki and and the Chivas USA bench going goofball over Landon Donovan, but this was recorded before Landon's hat trick.

Boy, I have to say, I'm so on board with Paul & Hall here. Showing up the ump is a good way to take an early shower in baseball, and umpires are far more respected. I'd love to see soccer referees around the world crack down on silliness like this.

Hey, an assistant coach broke his hand banging on the sign boards, complaining about a call? PLEASE tell us who this was. Once again, these would be so much more delightful if names were named and people raked over the coals.

Ah, additional time. Mostly Paul is telling us what we should already know - the minimum amount of time announced at the end of the half or game is simply a minimum. I wish they'd talk about the countdown clock days, while we're on this subject. What a huge pain in the ass that must have been. I thought this would be about what seems to be the unusual amount of extra time MLS refs add. I bring this up because in the World Cup, people would shriek about four or five minutes being added, while that's routine for MLS games. That might be because MLS league games don't have the same high stakes as World Cup games.

"Game flow and taking risks" is topic three. Referees? Taking risks? Brian, explain please: "When a certain foul is in the game, given the environment of the game, and the situation of the game at the time, it may be a foul, but the referee may say this is minor or trifling, and given the context, the referee can decide, I'm going to take a risk and allow that foul to go unpunished, and then hopefully the players will accept that, and the end result is a more entertaining game and a game that has more flow to it without unnecessary stoppages."

Hm. I think this is simply another way of encouraging rough play. I think this encourages clumsy players at the expense of skillful ones. I think this ends up a more sluggish, defensive-minded game than otherwise. In other words, I think I hate this.

Look, fouls are meant to slow down the game, not speed it up. You foul a guy because you were beat. And this sort of thing adds up. When you let ticky-tack stuff go, you get ninety minutes of shirt-pulling. Yeah, it slows down the game when you call the foul, and the defense runs back into position and one guy pretends not to know how far ten yards is - persistent fouling and bringing the game into disrepute are yellow cards for a reason. Make an example out of the persistent fouling, and make an example out of time-wasters. Otherwise, why not foul? As long as fouling, especially in the midfield area, is a no-lose proposition, that's what we're going to see.

Perhaps this isn't as big an issue, but if we're not calling fouls that would be called in international games, then that's going to have an effect on the national team. Although realistically, the US isn't going to get a call on the road anyway. But given that refs on the road are just looking for an excuse to shaft us, training guys to foul seems counterproductive.

Paul, your thoughts?

"There's contact. This is a contact sport. What the referees are taking the risk are, it's fair challenges with contact. Maybe some years ago, we saw contact and blew the whistle for the foul. So now the players are stronger, faster, more phsyical, mroe tactical, so we're gettnig more fair challenges with contact, and those are the ones the referees are letting go."

Well...okay, big difference between letting this go, and letting fouls go. That's not what Brian was talking about. And to be honest, I don't remember shoulder-to-shoulder legal challenges being whistled back in days of yore. Geoff "the Lumberjack" Aunger, John Doyle, Ivan McKinley, Danny Pena - it wasn't as if 90's MLS was a finesse league.

Last topic - six second rule. They want to keep teams from wasting time...but again, short of waving a card and making an example out of some keepers, I don't think you're going to make a dent in this.

Bleah. Second time out of two podcasts where I disagree with the fundamental premises MLS refs operate under. I may not agree with Jason Kreis, but I feel for him.

You may listen for yourself at www.ussoccer.com, or not, as is your prerogative.