You Seem Like A Regular Joe, Does this Look Like A Foul to You?

Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave was shown a straight red for the following play against San Jose striker Steven Lenhart (at the 55-second mark):

Leaving aside the homerism of the local broadcast team (we watched it originally on the San Jose feed, where there was little to no questioning of the call), we do think the ref got this one wrong.

It’s just two big, fast guys in pursuit of the ball, and the contact—apart from Lenhart’s shorts-grab—is shoulder-to-shoulder. Okay, Olave is slightly behind, and puts his shoulder into the back of Lenhart’s shoulder, but still, there’s not much from Olave that’s out of the range of normal jostling-for-possession on the play.

Indeed, Lenhart bounces right back up and shoots on goal—not necessarily the action of a man who believes he’s been denied an obvious goalscoring chance by the last defender back. That, of course, is the language of the rulebook that dictates a red card be shown to said defender. Which is exactly what happened: Olave was sent off; and it was RSL’s second red of the night, reducing them to nine men and opening the door for San Jose to score twice in stoppage time and win the game 3-1.

It’s a tough call to make in real time, chasing the play (the linesman was playing catch-up, too), and the officiating crew got it wrong. Seems to us that Lenhart drew this foul and card, Dennis Rodman–style.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

We Just Had a Twitter Dustup with Eric Wynalda

Earlier this afternoon, we came across the following Tweet from National Soccer Hall of Famer and Fox broadcaster Eric Wynalda:

@Wynalda11: I wanna go on the record and announce that I was a HORRIBLE soccer player. Can I now be considered for an MLS coaching position?

Now, Wynalda’s desire to become a head coach has been common knowledge for some time. We interpreted his Tweet as a dig at former MLSers Jay Heaps and Jesse Marsch, both of whom were recently hired as MLS head coaches with little (Marsch) to no (Heaps) previous coaching experience.

Sure, neither Heaps nor Marsch had as distinguished a playing career as Wynalda, who was the alltime leading scorer for the USMNT until 2008, and who scored this goal, which we contend is one of the best, and most important, goals in US Soccer history.

But Waldo’s comment struck us as an unfair shot at the two new hires, who were solid American players. So we Retweeted it with the following hashtag: #sourgrapes?

Apparently the Twitter mic was on, because Wynalda’s response was immediate:

@JohnEM12: sour grapes? What are you an idiot?

We were taken aback at the swiftness and severity of the reply (and the fact that a US Soccer legend had directly asked us if we were “an idiot”), but we pulled together the following response:

@Wynalda11: My wife says yes, yes I am. But can you clarify your tweet?

Then we waited—and waited—for a response. Nothing.

We were just about to forget about it, but then, on Wynalda’s feed, we noticed the following Tweet, directed at someone named LAKingsJunkie:

@LAKingsJunkie: yeah, that came off wrong. We are all idiots when it comes to wives. I meant, of course I am bitter.

Now, you have to keep in mind, Wynalda has more than 5,000 Twitter followers (we have literally dozens), and he’s constantly bantering with them. Could he have posted his second reply to the wrong person?

The more we thought about it, the more the answer seemed to be yes.

The Tweet was not connected to a previous conversation between him and the LAKingsJunkie person (we checked), and look at the reference to “idiots” and “wives”—that couldn’t be a coincidence. It’s gotta be a response to our comment.

And then there’s the final sentence: He’s bitter that guys like Heaps and Marsch are walking into coaching jobs almost immediately after hanging up their boots while he’s had no luck landing one.

So even though he accidentally sent it to the wrong person, we still got his clarification.

Thanks Waldo.

Unless of course our deductive reasoning is faulty here.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Red Bulls GM Soler Issues Statement on Refereeing in Portland Game (But Henry’s Red Was Deserved)

The New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers played to a wild, back-and-forth 3-3 draw last night at JELD-WEN Field.

Here are the highlights, with the not-even-trying-to-hide-their-bias local announcers (one of whom is former Jamaica international Robbie Earle, who scored that nation’s first ever goal in the World Cup finals. The more you know….):

Absent from the clip are a penalty miss (off the post) by Jack Jewsbury that would have put the Timbers up 4–2, a bicycle-kick goal-line clearance by Teemu Tainio, and a red card issued to Thierry Henry in stoppage time for smacking the head of Portland midfielder Adam Moffat.

Yes, it was an eventful, strange game. And here’s perhaps the oddest occurrence: New York was whistled for 25 fouls to Portland’s five.

There’s home-field advantage, Red Bulls GM Erik Soler has apparently decided, and then there’s … WTF?

Today, Soler issued the following statement regarding the match:

“We have carefully reviewed the film of our match against Portland last night and I can safely say that the level of refereeing was absolutely below the standards of what is required for a MLS match and completely unacceptable. First, the red card given to Thierry Henry was inexplicable. There was no violent conduct on his part whatsoever and this decision was made by a linesman who was more than half a field away. Second, in any soccer game, there is no way that one team can draw 20 more fouls than the other team, especially in a match where one team drew just five fouls. I have never seen this occur in my 30 years in the game.

“We are aware that U.S. Soccer and MLS are working hard to improve the officiating in this country and we support those efforts wholeheartedly. However, if we want to continue increasing the level of play, we cannot let these types of refereeing performances occur. We look forward to speaking with the League to appeal Thierry’s automatic red card suspension and expect that it will be rescinded so that he is available for our match Thursday in Seattle.”

As for the imbalance in foul calls—and just five being called on the home side—Soler has a valid point. That’s more than an anomaly.

As for Henry’s red card, it’s true that the linesman who helped the ref make the call was not right on top of the play, but the statement “there was no violent conduct on his part whatsoever” is demonstrably false.

Click here to take a look at the clip.

Henry does the time-tested “Yeah, yeah, we’re good, man” multiple pats on the head delivered with enough force to suggest exactly the opposite.

It’s a first cousin of the “Here, let me help you up” move seen so often on soccer fields that actually communicates “Get up, a—hole, I barely touched you.”

If it were Henry’s only borderline action of the game (or his brief MLS career), we’d say it deserved a yellow at most.

But Henry—who had an incredible game, by the way—was on the edge for much of the match, getting in little cheap shots here and there and twice planting his knee in the backs of Portland defenders while going for headers.

In that context, the red makes more sense—and regardless of the situation, Henry did strike an opposing player.

We’d be surprised if the league agreed with Soler (and 86% of the respondents to the MLS poll on the topic) and appealed the Frenchman’s automatic one-game suspension, making him available for Thursday’s game at Seattle.

Besides, with his sore knees, does Henry really want to play two FieldTurf games in a row?

Hainault?! Hey … No

There  was some gnashing of teeth among the Houston faithful as to why Dynamo defender Andrew Hainault’s apparent goal was called back during the LA-Houston MLS semifinal. Or, his game-winning goal, as my irate Dynamo-fan friend put it, overlooking in his ire the fact that the Galaxy scored two goals in the game. But seriously, where was the foul there? Let’s check the replay below, focusing on the 3:48 mark and forward:

Our take: LA defender Berhalter is marking Houston striker Ching on the corner kick, and as Ching darts for the near post, with Berhalter in tight pursuit, Ching collides with LA’s A.J. DeLaGarza. The contact is entirely incidental, and in fact Ching is taken out of the play by it, but referee Terry Vaughn calls a foul on … Ching. Here’s the key, as far as we can tell: DeLaGarza was also taken out of the play by the collision, and his man peeled off and was free at the backpost, where Hainault nailed his goal-bound header. So even though it looked like the only player who may have committed a foul 0n the play was Berhalter, who appeared to nudge Ching into the collision, DeLaGarza was also knocked out of the play and the Houston player he was marking was left wide open. And even though none of this had much to do with Hainault, who sailed in unmarked and headed home from six yards, we can see a rationale for the call.

There’s more than a little gray area on this one, and when you throw in Houston’s two headers off the crossbar, it adds up to a tough loss for the two-time champs. But a legitimate loss nonetheless. Sorry, Texian Army.