Disbelief of Suspension; or, Unworking the Refs (UPDATED 11/26)

UPDATE: I could just kill a man.

Okay, so, as of 10:40 am Wednesday, probably earlier though, I owe Farley, Donovan, and Gonzalez an apology, and should have put Carlisle's interview with Peter Walton of PRO a little more prominently.

Carlisle followed up with Walton yesterday, and, well, judge for yourself, because I'm sure going to:

"Kevin does not recall any conversation that Gonzalez is referring to," said Walton. "It would appear that any comments made were either taken out of context or misunderstood."

As Ernie Hudson didn't say in "Ghostbusters," when someone asks you if you said something that would compromise your entire career, you say "No!"

Sorry, you were right in your analysis the first time, Richard.  Landon?  Omar?  You can keep your game checks, and play in the second leg.  Still friends?  Aww. 

Omar Gonzalez was painfully specific: "he wants the best players playing the next game."  I admit I'm not privy to how talkative or not Stott is during games.  For all I know, he's Chatty Cathy for all ninety minutes.  But the charges are serious enough that asking fans to play parseball with a statement like this is, frankly, insulting.  Why IS Walton talking like Stott's attorney, anyway?

Shall we take this statement at face value, just to be completely disagreeable about it? 

We now know PRO referees do not remember significant details of the games they run after 48 hours or less.  We now know that this occurs often enough that said referee isn't immediately suspended for withholding such information from Mr. Walton, since Mr. Stott is still in the pool to run MLS Cup.  We now know that there is no mechanism for tracking, by self-policing or otherwise, what a referee says to a player during a game.  We now know that Mr. Walton is willing to accept serious charges from players after a game, and to let the matter stand unresolved.

Well, all that, or the statement is pretty much PRO saying that Darth Vader DID kill Anakin Skywalker, from a certain point of view.

"Just a misunderstanding, folks.  Move along." 

So, as of 11:00 Eastern on Wednesday, we're left with MLS being okay with BOTH referees taking it upon themselves to set the lineups for semifinals AND players making wild accusations in order to game the system.  All is as it shouldn't be in this worst of all possible worlds.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Original post below, if you can stomach it.

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Richard Farley has a very interesting article about Omar Gonzalez, Landon Donovan and Kevin Stott here.  Go read it here, I'll pad out some time by saying that I KIND OF understand why Mike Petke didn't tell his team to play tentative because of potential yellow card issues., although he probably should have been better informed, and told Bradley Wright-Phillips to avoid tempting fate too much. 

In fact, if what Gonzalez and Donovan had to say is true, then Petke thinking was absolutely correct not to be concerned about yellow cards.  Provided you believe that Stott and other MLS refs are in the business of setting the rosters for conference finals.

Here's what Gonzalez said:

It’s tough when Stott says to one of your players that [a Seattle player is] not going to get another yellow because he wants the best players playing the next game. It’s not his job to focus on the next game. It’s his job to focus on the game tonight, the game at hand. For him to say that to one of our players is pretty ridiculous.

And Landon chimed in with:

The officials had made it clear that no one’s getting sent off. So we have to make sure we’re aware of that next weekend, and we’ll play with that in mind, and I’m sure they will, too.

I'm not an unbiased observer, not really.  After all, I named my children Landon and Omar. They're the two cutest little girls ever, too, I should show you pictures sometime.

But I have to disagree with Farley's takeaway here:

So what’s MLS to do about this? Probably tell the Professional Referees’ Organization to have a long talk with Mr. Stott, who needs to sit the rest of these playoffs out. At the same time, it’d be naïve to assume that referees weren’t already doing this, so a louder, more clear message needs to be sent.

Don't get me wrong, Farley is absolutely correct in his analysis.  IF, and ONLY if, Stott is guilty.

This could end up being a scandal, if not handled properly.  But, maybe this won't even be a concern, unless, geez, I don't know, the official LA Galaxy site decides they're going to make a public case out of oh boy.

As one makes an Internet search for this story, as one does, at least as of 2:35 Eastern time one of the headlines you will see is "MLS Referee Allegedly Caught Cheating."  That is not an exaggeration.

Per Jeff Carlisle, PRO's Peter Walton denied that there was a new policy, at least from the referees:

"There has certainly been nothing coming out of our office saying as such [about second yellows]," Walton said via telephone. "There has been nothing remotely said to any of our referees about that. They should referee the game the same way they did during the regular season. That way there are no surprises.

"I am surprised in fairness, if [Stott] went into went into a game with that attitude, especially with Kevin being the vastly experienced guy that he is. I'll be interested to see what his take on that is when I speak to him during our post-match debrief during the week."

Wright-Phillips being given a yellow card to keep him from the New England leg of the semifinal, to his and Mike Petke's dismay and astonishment, makes Walton's words extremely easy to believe.  Why only make one semifinal exciting?  I mean, the Revolution are going to freaking waltz now.

As of 2:35 Eastern time on Tuesday, we have to presume Stott innocent.  Omar and Landon are two very respected figures in the American game; they also were fresh off a hard-fought game and emotions were running high. 

Either Gonzalez and Donovan have exposed some serious malfeasance, or they are trying to influence the refereeing for game two.  Which is the more likely I'll leave as an exercise to the reader.

No, on second thought, I won't.  Until I see a lot more evidence, I think that the Galaxy were, at best, exaggerating to an insanely misguided degree.  There's a world of difference between "the refs are allowing too much physical play in the playoffs" and "the ref wanted certain players to stay on the field." 

In any case, you can't just throw this kind of thing out there.  You need a lot more evidence.  The name of the player Omar is referring to, for one thing, would be helpful, along with his testimony. 

And "testimony" would be the right word.  I also disagree with Farley that Stott would have taken this upon himself.  If we're going to risk the integrity of the league for a more exciting matchup in the second leg, that call probably doesn't get made at field level.  What, really, would Stott care if the second leg is exciting or not? 

It's extremely unfortunate that Stott and MLS have not addressed this issue, but as of 2:45 Eastern time, they haven't.  I understand why.  If this story goes away - just flat-out disappears, except to ferment in the minds of the Galaxy - then no harm is done.

But I believe if they do ignore it, that encourages even more speculation. 

Well, maybe Stott and the league will come clean, I don't know.  But I will make an assumption.  If Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan get to keep and cash their game checks, then somebody's hiding something.

Please, tell me if I'm jumping to a wrong conclusion here, but Gonzalez and Donovan's comments are incredibly damaging.  As in, bringing the game into disrepute, damaging.  As in, Stott might consider suing for defamation, damaging.  As in, you can't fine Arena for moaning about not being able to sign Sacha Kljestan and let THIS slide, not in a thousand years, damaging. 

It would, in fact, be in the league's purview to actually suspend Gonzalez and Donovan for this stunt - although that would probably make things worse, if you believe MLS is fixing its own matches.  So the league and the Sounders will probably have to settle for financial punishment.

Unless, of course, Landon and Omar are correct, and can prove it.  Then Stott really does need to find another line of work.  (Even if Stott was ordered to do it by league higher-ups, who tells the other team about it?  You need trustworthy guys to fix games, if you get the paradox.)

As of 2:55 Eastern time - how is the speaking clock aspect of the blog working for you, by the way? I think it's been very helpful, and I assume it's been a pleasure to read - Gonzalez and Donovan and Player Zero have not elaborated, Scott has not commented, the league has not rained judgment down upon Carson.

In other news, the LA Galaxy are up for the 2014 Team Fair Play award.