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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

MLS Red Card Watch – Salazar and Chivas

    Last week POV-FS, alerted by a lack of red cards through two weeks, theorized that MLS had instructed its officials to be more lenient on the field and allow the Disciplinary Committee to handle any serious infractions in an effort to spare any mistakes from ruining matches.

    Finally, in the last match of Round Three on Sunday, the first red card of the 2013 season was shown by referee Ricardo Salazar to Chivas USA in their derby against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

    And, of course, it was controversial.

    It was a poor call on Joaquin Velazquez, who appeared to not even make contact with Colin Clark; some going so far as to state if there was a foul committed it was by Clark and not Velazquez.

    Salazar made a rushed mess of the situation, first pulling a yellow card – a fact later stricken from the score-sheet and match report, before quickly flashing a red, as Clark embellished the non-contact, in demonstrative agony.

    It was a peculiar series of events. Some thought Velazquez must have said something in response to the initial booking to inspire the additional punishment.

    PRO (the Professional Referee Organization headed by former English official Peter Walton) later clarified events, stating the yellow card was issued in error and a straight red card was issued for the challenge.

    On Tuesday, after Chivas had petitioned to have the case reviewed, it was announced that an independent review panel had rescinded the red-card suspension – and fine – and Velazquez, was now eligible for the club’s next match – Sunday in Chicago.

    Previously - on Monday, PRO released the referee assignments for the upcoming matches – Round Four – and Salazar’s name was not included on that list.

    He has already taken three assignments: serving as the fourth official in Round One (San Jose vs. Salt Lake), the head referee in Round Two (San Jose vs. New York), and again as lead ref in Round Three (LA vs. Chivas); perhaps he was due for a week out of the rotation, regardless of any controversy.   

    Barely more than a year ago – March 6th, 2012 - MLS and US Soccer announced the creation of PRO, a body to manage the referee program in the United States and Canada. Since then, in conjunction with the shadowy Disciplinary Committee – whose members remain anonymous – there has been an increase in post-match leveling of discipline, in the form of fines and suspensions, for incidents on the field of play.

    It is a new approach to officiating – allowing play on the field to transpire (within limits, of course) and meting out any necessary additional punishment afterwards, running against the current of refereeing standards in Europe.

    An approach especially interesting given the controversy currently rumbling over the English FA’s handling of the Callum McManaman horror tackle on Massadio Haidara, which has gone unpunished.

    The FA is standing firm on their stance that the on-field official in the sole arbiter of the match and regardless of any technological evidence – except in extreme cases such as the Ben Thatcher assault on Pedro Mendes years ago – his rulings will take precedent with the concern being that to re-referee after the matches have been played would be a monumental task and open the door to all sorts of problems.

    It is a similar argument to that made against the use of video technology to determine the validity of goals.

    How the interactions between MLS, the players, the referees, the Disciplinary Committee, and PRO plays out over the course of the season will be incredibly interesting to follow.

    Revolutionary or madness; it’s such a fine line.

NB: For clarification, the independent review panel is not the Disciplinary Committee, but an outside body comprised of a representatives from the US Soccer Federation, Canadian Soccer Association, and PRO.

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