2023 MLS Cup Referee Discussion

Discussion in 'MLS Referee Forum' started by SouthRef, Dec 5, 2023.

  1. SouthRef

    SouthRef Member+

    Arsenal
    Jun 10, 2006
    USA
    Club:
    Rangers
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
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  2. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member+

    Sep 7, 2011
    Club:
    FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd
    Not really surprising once the semi-final assignments were made.

    Congratulations to Villarreal again.

    The question now has to be asked is will any of the long time veterans of the league like Penso, Bazakos, Unkel, etc. ever really get a chance to do MLS Cup? Their window is closing.

    If someone like Bazakos (who by all accounts was maybe the top referee in the regular season, at least, from an assessment/KMI perspective) had a career year and couldn't get it this year will he ever?

    All of us rate Penso as a really good referee. Will he ever get that opportunity?

    Their window/door is closing as you the newer generation of Szpala, Freemon, Dickerson, Rivas, Mendoza, etc. will all be pushing to get the assignment next couple of years.

    Fascinating to see how it plays out.
     
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  3. USSF REF

    USSF REF Guest

    #3 USSF REF, Dec 5, 2023
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2023
    I also rate C. Penso and Fotis. CP is more of a mystery... maybe it's kmi #s? I dunno.

    Fotis just needs a Rocky montage.
     
  4. soccerref69420

    soccerref69420 Member+

    President of the Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz fan cub
    Mar 14, 2020
    Nat'l Team:
    Korea DPR


    MLS was afraid to have the FOX audience (probably their most viewed game of the season) see the center referee upstage their players from a cardiovascular fitness and physique standpoint. Cowards.
     
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  5. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 30, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    As you say, it wasn't really surprising once the semifinal assignments were made. And I congratulate Villarreal, of course, but I was rooting for the other side of this perceived coin flip: https://www.bigsoccer.com/threads/2023-mls-semifinals-referee-discussion.2128566/#post-41866890

    I do think this is a valid question. Presuming Elfath stays on with an eye toward WC26, you have to presume he gets it at least one more time (so 2024 or 2025). That leaves one MLS Cup--maybe--for the names you mention (plus Fischer/Ford, if you want to expand the pool just a little bit).

    I think this was supposed to be Unkel's year until it wasn't, for whatever reason. So he'd stay in the mix, I think.

    Bazakos, I really feel for. Historically he's never been a candidate for bigger playoff matches, but as I made the case elsewhere, he's been lights-out this year on KMIs, the teams trust him, he was a hot hand, and obviously PRO was trusting him with big playoff matches. So I'm not sure there's anything he can do to make that final leap. Though if he's motivated and has a repeat season, it would seem very hard for PRO to shut the door on a final three match. Repeating this season, though, might be tough.

    And yeah, I think we are all on the same page with Penso. I guess he has more KMI "misses" relative to others but he also gets the tougher and more high-profile games through the season and uses VAR very well to make any necessary corrections. I think he's right on that cusp but keeps falling short. Maybe a silly thought, but did having a Columbus reach the final hurt him? It's been a long time since we saw a "home" referee on MLS Cup. It's happened, so it never was league policy. But I'm just wondering if there's some unwritten rule around it now.

    I think there's a decent chance Rivas was the backup plan for Unkel, given the Referee of the Year Award. So I think you have to put him (and maybe Vazquez, who admittedly didn't have as good of a year) in a generation slightly ahead of the rest of this group. Rivas is undoubtedly a contender next year and that puts him up against Penso/Unkel/Bazakos. The other names probably need a couple seasons to be serious candidates, at least.

    Also, you missed Gonzales, Jr. Of all assignments this playoff season, that one might be the most surprising to me. He's really risen in PRO's eyes.

    Finally, you can't discount Chapman as a repeat MLS Cup referee either. Lot of names. Lot of names PRO wants (or isn't afraid) to use multiple times. But only one match per season.
     
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  6. ManiacalClown

    ManiacalClown Member+

    Jun 27, 2003
    South Jersey
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Speaking of final assignments and how special they are, I noticed the other day that PRO on their website have added an honor roll for NWSL (playoff final and Challenge Cup final), USL (Championship & League 1), MLS Next Pro, and even the recent zombie NASL. No idea if they ever fixed the error on their MLS Cup crews, though.

    Edit: I gotta let Greg Boles know that he's been immortalized for his 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl first leg assignment. :p
     
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  7. SouthRef

    SouthRef Member+

    Arsenal
    Jun 10, 2006
    USA
    Club:
    Rangers
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    It's not fair but that's the game. too many qualified people and not enough matches.

    De Bleeckere and Larrionda never did a major senior final either (De Bleeckere did a FIFA youth final but I can't remember which one)

    Lots of good teams don't make it either - New England and Philadelphia have never won an MLS Cup despite being arguably being the better teams over many years. Single elimination cup tournaments leave a lot of the best outside looking in.

    As for Rivas, I hope he continues to advance and get the assignments he clearly deserves but sometimes I wonder if the events this year will hurt him somewhat.

    If it was just Cincinnati saying things to defend their player that's one thing but the MLSPA coming out and essentially saying someone on the crew lied...

    That can tarnish a reputation regardless of how true it is. And given his actions (again, correct,) put the commissioner in the position of suspending the league defender of the year and best XI, well, I think we have all had bosses who just don't want to deal with things like this (Garber clearly didn't) and that may count against him.

    Again, I hope it doesn't but it can't rule it out when politics come into play.
     
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  8. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 30, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    De Bleeckere actually did the 2005 U17 WC Final and the 2009 U20 WC Final, which puts him in some rarified company. But yeah, no senior internationals finals.

    Larrionda is truly the FIFA bridesmaid. Six FIFA-level semifinals without a final. Only Archundia matches him with that figure, but Archundia also had two FIFA finals. Larrionda did get several Copa Libertadores finals, for what it's worth, though those were all admittedly two-legged affairs.

    Regardless of the particulars on those two, though, your larger point still stands.
     
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  9. gaolin

    gaolin Member+

    Apr 21, 2019
    @MassachusettsRef I have always wondered. What was the story behind Irmatov? How did he manage to snag not only a QF but a semifinal at 32 years of age during the 2010 World Cup?
     
  10. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 30, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    He sucked but could run fast?
     
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  11. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member+

    Sep 7, 2011
    Club:
    FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd
    When was the last time Penso lived in Columbus? It's probably been over a decade unless I missed something and he moved back to Ohio.

    He's probably considered more of a Floridian then someone from Ohio. I don't think that home thing matters that much anymore, but I could be wrong.
     
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  12. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member+

    Sep 7, 2011
    Club:
    FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd
    MLS Cup and major international finals are not apples to apples.

    As an international referee you essentially have a very narrow window and opportunity to get a major international final and so many things that are out of your control that affect your ability to get the Final (i.e. your team advancing, which confederation did the previous final, certain teams you can't referee simply due to geo-political factors (if Argentina made the 2010 World Cup Final Howard Webb wouldn't have gotten the Final), etc.)

    I know we've had this discussion before of what MLS Cup would be analogous to in the rest of the world.

    Is it equivalent to a domestic cup Final a la FA Cup or Copa Del Rey, etc.? Or is it more equivalent to a Barcelona vs. Real Madrid El Clasico that is for the title or EPL title decider match?

    If you're an above average English or Spanish referee you'll get an FA Cup Final or Copa Del Rey Final if you referee for a decade plus. Even some of the below average ones get it.

    However, not every referee will get an El Clasico or Man City vs. Liverpool match on match day 35 or 36 no matter how long you referee in the EPL.

    I wonder what the record is for most matches refereed in MLS and in the MLS playoffs without getting an MLS Cup referee assignment?
     
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  13. gaolin

    gaolin Member+

    Apr 21, 2019
    The only thing I remember was that he blew his whistle and pointed for a penalty but then the ball went in and then pointed for kick off. Club World Cup? Hmm.. surprised De Bleeckere never got a final from what I read.

    Who were other greats that never got a final?
     
  14. ManiacalClown

    ManiacalClown Member+

    Jun 27, 2003
    South Jersey
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Terry Vaughn immediately comes to mind. George Gansner on the AR side. Both trusted with multiple conference finals but no Cups.
     
  15. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member+

    Sep 7, 2011
    Club:
    FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd
    I knew Vaughn never got one, but I never knew that Gansner never did one. That's really surprising that he never did it.

    I think Vaughn was on the path to getting MLS Cup, then the 2007 U-20 World Cup happened and his career seemingly went on a decline after that and he was out of MLS by what 2011 or 2012?

    it is also fair to ask if his illness didn't start to affect his performance by that point.
     
  16. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 30, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Yeah, I don't think it does necessarily matter. Was just throwing stuff out there, honestly. And he is publicly connected to Ohio pretty strongly. But yeah, probably not a thing.


    Yes and no, right?

    Barring the COVID blip, the FA Cup was different because you could only get it once. So the "If you're above average and work for a decade" framing makes sense. And it is that way for a bunch of other domestic cups. That doesn't apply with MLS Cup.

    I'm not sure there is an equivalent. It's not as much of a lottery as an international final is. But it's also not a situation where you have to get it--or even be considered, it would seem--just because you're in the top 25% of referees and have 10+ years of service.
     
  17. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 30, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Confederations Cup.

    But my, "holy hell, what does FIFA see in him?" perspective goes back to the U20 2007 World Cup. I thought he was terrible then. He went to 2010 anyway and was fit and had a bunch of games that didn't blow up, so he kept getting used (confederational neutrality was his friend). Some liked him, but I never did. Then he had the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Confed Cup, both of which were poor in my opinion. But he kept just sticking around. Finally got "found out," so to speak at 2018. I never got it.

    Remember who he was up against. Also remember, like @RedStar91 points out, how much luck is needed to get an international final. Also don't forget the man did two FIFA youth World Cups... very few referees have gotten two FIFA finals and they have names like Collina and Archundia. The man had the whistle on two FIFA sanctioned World Cups so the "he didn't get a final" thing is a little overwrought. We're really only talking about EURO, WC and UCL. And he probably had 1 chance each at the WC and EURO. UCL is where he can feel hard done-by. De Bleeckere was prolific at major QFs and SFs but the stars just never aligned.

    If this conversation goes on, one really has to define what constitutes "a final." Because any recognizable name someone puts out is going to have done their domestic cup final. And then there names like Larrionda, got his biggest continental club final 6 or 7 times, but those were two-legged affairs (but can you punish someone because the competition didn't even have one-off finals?!). And then some names will have done UEFA Cup but not Champions League.

    I think if you really chase this down over modern times (let's call that post AR-specialization in the early 1990s) and stick to international club or national team senior events, you're probably going to end up with an Argentinian or Brazilian name simply because they would have the most restrictions within CONMEBOL and then the FIFA opportunities are a lottery. But as we've seen recently, Argentinian referees can still rise to the top. So I'm not even sure what name would qualify.
     
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  18. ManiacalClown

    ManiacalClown Member+

    Jun 27, 2003
    South Jersey
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    10+ MLS Cup Playoff whistles but no MLS Cup whistle:
    Ricardo Valenzuela (11)
    Terry Vaughn (11)
    Ted Unkel (10)

    10+ MLS Cup Playoff ARs but no MLS Cup AR:
    George Gansner (32)
    Tom Supple (15) [AVAR 2018]
    Tom Bobadilla (15)
    Jason White (11) [RAR 2017]
    Steve Taylor (11)
    Brian Poeschel (10) [RAR 2019]
     
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  19. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member+

    Sep 7, 2011
    Club:
    FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd
    Wait Penso doesn't have 10+ playoff whistles? Man...I've really overestimated how good I think the PRO/league views him.

    There might not be a bigger discrepancy between perception of how this board views him (and maybe the rest of the referee community at large) as a referee and what his actual bosses think of him as a referee.
     
  20. ManiacalClown

    ManiacalClown Member+

    Jun 27, 2003
    South Jersey
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    He's now at 9 after this year.
     
  21. RedStar91

    RedStar91 Member+

    Sep 7, 2011
    Club:
    FK Crvena Zvezda Beograd
    Also, I think we also have to start a line of demarcation between the PRO and pre-PRO era.

    Prior to PRO, MLS refereeing was essentially about 5-6 referees who consistently did all the games essentially. The rest was a bunch of guys who would be cycled in and cycled out and never heard from again.

    So your pool of actual MLS Cup referee candidates was so miniscule.

    Pick a year in the mid-2000s and your candidates were basically Stott, Prus, Hall, Marrufo, Toledo and maybe Terry and those were the guys that did all the games.

    Now, your pool is legitimately 8-10 deep at the start of the season and you're getting greater tenure as a referee in the league.
     
  22. Twotone Jones

    Twotone Jones Member

    United States
    Apr 12, 2023
    #22 Twotone Jones, Dec 6, 2023
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2023
    Out of curiosity, where Rick Eddy and Anthony Vasoli rank amongst this group of ARs in terms of playoff matches. Eddy was never a FIFA AR and, usually, MLS Cup is given to the white badge guys. Vasoli was a FIFA AR but don't remember him getting many big-time games.

    Also, did Mauricio Navarro miss the boat on MLS because he was pre-Canadian teams being in the league? Cuz he'd be one that could be considered a "best to never ref MLS Cup" type.
     
  23. ManiacalClown

    ManiacalClown Member+

    Jun 27, 2003
    South Jersey
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Eddy: 12 playoff ARs
    Vasoli: 3 playoff ARs

    Navarro started doing MLS middles a year or two before Toronto joined the league. Petrescu and Steven DePiero were the other two I can recall from those first years of CSA officials in MLS.
    Others will need to fill in the gaps on Navarro and why he stopped doing MLS games, but I think it was more of a him decision than an MLS one.
     
  24. MassachusettsRef

    MassachusettsRef Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 30, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Paul Ward was there on the earlier side, too, right?

    For a minute, he was the guy who was going to replace Navarro as #1--domestically and internationally. And if I recall, he got (and had) some decent games. But never really took off and Petrescu sort of muscled him aside within PRO.
     
  25. ManiacalClown

    ManiacalClown Member+

    Jun 27, 2003
    South Jersey
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Ward was second wave (2008 first whistle). Those other three all debuted in the middle in 2006.
     
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