The Year of the Referee

Herewith, a lesson from The Round Mound of Coaching, Sigi Schmid, on how to publicly call a referee a POS:

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvn8jLc3wwU"]YouTube - Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid speaks after draw versus LA Galaxy[/ame]

Sigi is "disappointed" with the referee. He's "disappointed"in the ejection. "There seemed to be some inequities" in getting injured players back on the field. Back when Sigi could reject certain referees, that guy "didn't work many games" that Sigi coached in.

What can The Don object to there? I mean, clearly Sigi thinks the referee - our good freind Tim "White Cane" Weyland, who's been stinking up MLS all season long - sucks, and he manages to pass that thought along in a conversational tone free of acrimony, rancor or anything that gives the league and excuse to get into his wallet. Is Don going to fine him for being "disappointed"? For observing that, back in his UCLA days, Weyland didn't seem to be out there much?

This is of course the kind of thing that Crazy John Carver just couldn't seem to pull off. John said it was because he's so "passionate". Most of the rest of us would say it was because he's immature, but it's not nice to speak ill of the dead.

(Just as an aside, one of the main things, maybe THE main thing, that TFC fans used to use as an example of how obviously biased I am against their fine organization and marvelous fans was my insistence that John Carver was a narcissistic, arrogant, whiny little prat. However, now that everyone, including them, pretty universally agrees that Carver is, in fact, a narcissistic, arrogant, whiny little prat I keep checking my inbox for apologies from up North but they must be getting intercepted, possibly by the DHS.)

Yesterday, reporters in Seattle breathlessly reported that Sigi "didn't back down" from his post game remarks:

"As I said, it's just disappointing. And hopefully it'll be something that will be looked at," said Schmid. "It doesn't change what happened. And I do feel that the situation of -- whatever you want to call it -- the melee, the fracas, the altercation that occurred, I just think that could've been managed better."

Is this the kind of thing that Seattle writers find over-the-top and in-your-face? If so, they have a pretty low threshold for smack out there.

To me, the remarkable thing about Schmid's comments is how careful, measured and professional they are. He practically gives a clinic here on how to call out a game official and not say anything that they can fine you for.

Now of course they still might, but I'd be shocked. In any case, they're paying him so well out there that, frankly, he won't much miss the five bills anyway.

(He also sticks it to Bruce Arena a little, but my esteemed colleague Dan Loney ADMIRABLY COVERED THAT PARTICULAR TOPIC and there's not much to add except to say that I don't think Sigi and Bruce have ever had much love lost anyway, so hearing the Big Man call Arena a wussie isn't that surprising.)

More to the point though, the 2009 season is turning out to be The Year of the Referee, and not in a good way. I don't think Weyland has gone a single week without a "controversial" (read: "bad") call, and the only thing that's kept Jair Marrufo from making crummy calls every week is that he keeps getting suspended so he's not out there as much.

And of course it was Baldomero Toledo who pointed to the spot in the 93rd minute in DC, allowing Jaime Moreno to hit the PK (he's probably missed one at some point, but overall, as with Barros-Schelotto, the keeper might just as well go sit down) that gave The District a draw and sent TFC home still looking for their first RFK win.

Interim Reds HC Chris Cummins has made it clear from the beginning that while he might not be The Anti-Carver, exactly, his personality is markedly different, and the evidence after the DC game makes the case rather well.

One can only imagine the histrionics Crazy John would have engaged in, but Cummins was much more measured:

"Listen, penalties go for you, penalties go against you. (The ball) hit his hand – I think it's a penalty. And (the referee) has got to give that. ... It's as simple as that."

Maybe Cummins is a much calmer guy, or maybe it's just that he's not as well paid as men like Schmid or his former boss and can't afford the fine, but whatever it is, the result is like night and day. At least in public, Cummins isn't passing the blame, an altogether healthy thing.

Still, handling calls - good and bad - have played a role in far too many games this season, and TFC fans can be forgiven for the loud grumbling many of them are engaging in at the moment.

And while I'm no big Baldomero Toledo fan still it has to be observed that USSF wants their guys to show a little more "courage" this year and you have to admit that it takes a pretty big pair to point to the spot in that situation.

While I usually get myself in trouble when I discuss rules and rulings, I've been a referee for many years and the German coach who called me "a cabbage" one day aside, I'm usually able to hold my own, so I'm not really going out on a huge limb here when I say that many fans make too much of the "ball to hand, hand to ball" paradigm, and rant on a bit too long about how "the ball played the hand" and all of that.

The emphasis, particularly this year, is on defenders using their arms to clear out space for themselves. And like it or not, when your arms are in an unnatural position and you're gaining an advantage from said position and then the ball hits the arm, then it most assuredly IS handling, regardless of whether you "intentionally" played the ball.

MLS defenders this year, maybe more than I ever recall seeing before, seem to have their arms and hands up an awful lot. It's fully intentional, it's intended to gain a tactical advantage and that's all well and good, but the ball is going to hit it sometimes and when it does the ref is going to blow the whistle.

It's a risky strategy. The solution to this is to keep them down.