After my first game last Friday in Virginia Beach (CR, U19Boys, 8:00am), it hit me: The Bill F. from New Jersey in my crew was the "billf" from bigsoccer.com. And, with that, Bill and I constituted what I think is the first bigsoccer.com interstate crew--certainly the first at the regional level. And since we worked together for four matches, we thought it might be fun to give a synopsis of our week. First, without question, besides the occassional FIFA or MLS AR who has run my line (I think I can count 3 ever), Bill is the best AR that I've ever had the pleasure of working with. He's fit, dedicated, focused, has an incredible read and understanding of the game, and he doesn't hesitate to call what needs to be called. He also has the important ability of knowing what not to call from the touch as well. Within 10 minutes of our first kickoff, I trusted him like I had known him for 10 years. Both on and off the field, it was great to get to know him and some of the other NJ refs (we shared a dorm at Virginia Wesleyan College), and I hope they'll except the invite to attend our Memorial Day tournament next Spring in Needham. So, the first game we worked on was a typical 7-1 blowout in favor of Delco. The only slightly tough part came in the 25th minute when a Bayside player, with his team already down 4-0, committed an atrocious tackle in front of the Delco bench. As the Delco player passed the ball up the touch with his left foot, the Bayside player connected late with his right plant leg, hitting him above the ankle with his studs. The red card I had to show was not only the first red, but the first card of the entire week. For those that I've been to a tournament like this, it's not exactly the way you want to start your experience with. Luckily, the powers that be saw the incident (as well as the national assessor on my game) and were happy with what I did. Besides one caution in the 81st minute, the rest of the match was smooth sailing. The 3:00pm kickoff was difficult for all of us (I believe it was 107 degrees on the field with high humidity), but I felt especially bad for Bill in the middle (I had SAR). He got through the match like a champ, though. It was Reston (VA) vs. a West Virginia team. Normally, you'd expect a blowout, but West Virginia hung with them the entire way, eventually losing by a respectable score of 3-0 (Virginia was the eventualy regional champs). The first goal was off a great penalty call by Bill (shirt pull where the attacker never went down), and in general, on a very hot day, he used his cautions judiciously. He'll remember the exact stats, but I think he had 5 yellows, all of which were necessary. Unfortunately, West Virginia, probably feeling the disappointment of coming so close to pulling an upset, got testy at the end, and Bill had to send two of them off. The first was easy--a violent strike into the groin in retaliation of a tactical foul (Bill got the caution to the VA player, too). The second was slightly stranger, as a WVA player dissented and protested a simple midfield foul call by kicking the ball hard directly at Bill. He kept his cool, though, and just showed him the red. No real complaints on either call from the WVA coach, who I have to say was a class act. After two days on separate crews in the other preliminary matches, I was very pleased to see Bill as my SAR for the U18Boys Semifinal that I was assigned. The crew was very experienced, with a solid up-an-coming Grade 7 from ENY as JAR, and a Grade 5 from Delaware who's already been to Nationals as my 4th. And none of them put up any complaints when I asked them to put on long sleeved black in the 85 degree heat. Plus, halfway through my pre-game, when I was describing what to do when I miss misconduct, I said "Since we don't have beeper flags...", only to be interrupted by Bill, who pointed out that he had them in his bag. So, I had the added bonus of being able to use the electronic flags (which did come in handy on two occassions) on such an important match. The game--Rochester Rhinos vs. Beadling--was played mostly in the midfield and ended 0-0 after 90 minutes, with only one caution in the 79th for a tactical foul. We were all feeling great, but the 30 minutes of extra time (no golden goal) absolutely exploded. First I gave Rhinos a penalty in the 97th minute, which was controversial (defender got a touch of the ball with his first leg, but as the attacker jumped over him to follow up, he lifted his trail leg to bring him down). Then, after the goal was converted, Beadling committed two hard late fouls in succession which needed cautions in the 98th and 100th minutes. So we got to the extra time break at 105 minutes with a 1-0 game in favor of the Rhinos. Then, in the 108th minute, came the strangest call of my life, which Bill was an integral part of. The Rhinos keeper had been gaming me and my crew the whole match. Basically, he would initiate contact after he took a ball of an attacker's head (he was tall, probably 6'5" or so), and then complain to me and try to bait the attacker into retaliating. So, in the 108th minute, after he collected a headed corner kick and went to ground about 2 yards off his goal line, he simulated a foul. As an attacker came close to him in order to follow up a possible rebound, the goalkeeper acted like he had been kicked in the head. From my angle (I was at the 18, looking in from about a 30 degree angle on the left), I saw at least 2 feet of separation between the attacker and goalkeeper. I quickly looked to Bill, (who hadn't beeped me) and saw him giving me the thumbs up and shaking his head "no". Both of us, trying to prevent escalation, immediately began yelling "nothing!" and "get up!". Unfortunately, the goalkeeper was intent on wasting time and/or getting the Beadling player sent off. So, he then did the unthinkable: he released the ball inside his own goal area and began rolling around, clutching his head. Beadling players (who hard retreated outside the 18) began to rush on to the ball, about to put it into an open net. Knowing that, if I allowed Beadling to score: A) I'd have a riot on my hands and B) The Rhinos goalkeeper would be sure to leave in a stretcher, making me looking like an idiot, I quickly blew my whistle. As I diffused the mass confrontation (from both sides), I walked over to Bill, where we briefly (and visually) consulted. As I left him, I said, "you know we're going to have a nightmare of a time selling this" he responded with "I know, but it's the right call to make". So, I walked up to the keeper, who was just now getting up, and showed him the caution. To my amazement, not one of the Rhinos players protested. Even a Rhinos parent who was near that goal line yelled, "that was a hell of a good call". Good? I suppose. But absolutely the strangest and most intense that I've ever had to make in a big match. Beadling didn't convert the indirect kick, but, since this game had everything, they did get a penalty in added time. Added time, I might point out, that would have never happened if the Rhinos goalkeeper hadn't taken a dive in his own goal area. The penalty, quite frankly, was a gift to me from above. There wasn't a word of protest, it was just a clumsly foul tackle made by a defender who was dead tired from 120+ minutes of play. So, after the goal was scored at 1:22:45, I played 30 more seconds and we went to PKs. For those keeping score at home, Beadling won but lost in the Finals. Anyway, that's the report. I'm sure Bill might have some to add, but I just want to repeat how great of a time I had and how solid of an official Bill is. I can't wait to work with him again come next May.