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Blowing it big-time: video of a weighty referee mistake

May 24, 2012, 10:57 AM EDT

Matt Hedges, Orr Barouch

There’s going to be a lot of referee talk today … so let’s just get started.

And let’s not waste time by going namby-pamby and wading in slowly; let’s dive right into the pit and get muddy:

Hilario Grajeda blew it last night, big.

Referees have a tough job, and some decisions are tougher than others. Dive or foul inside the penalty area? Intent on handball? Red or yellow on a dangerous challenge? Collision of malice or benign intent?

These can be weighty choices attached to nuance and situation, complicated by the vagaries of purpose, history or angle of the view.

Then again, some choices are black and white. Sometimes it comes down to “them’s the rules.” And that’s the situation Grajeda faced last night as Chicago’s Marco Pappa took about four steps inside the 18 on a penalty kick against FC Dallas. It was a critical decision as Pappa’s goal was the game-winner in a 2-1 Fire victory. Watch it here:

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(Update, via the Washington Post’s Steven Goff: On his Facebook page, Kevin Hartman wrote: “Man, that guy was so far inside the box, I wasn’t sure which player was going to take the penalty kick.” Brilliant!)

When Pappa got into the penalty area by 3-4 steps and then converted the rebound off Hartman’s save, that became an easy call. It’s one that nobody around Chicago would even protest, in all likelihood.

It’s the rule. And yet, Grajeda inexplicably, reprehensibly ignored the laws of the game.

These things are frequently ignored on a successful spot-shot conversion, but only when the referee typically adjudges that a technical violation didn’t influence the play, and therefore doesn’t warrant a re-kick. Even then, egregious violations sometimes do compel a PK retake. For instance, referee Mark Geiger ordered a retake just last weekend, adjudging that Chivas USA players got into the penalty area too quickly on Jose Correa’s second-half penalty kick (also a game-winner). Jorge Villafaña encroached by 3-4 steps. So Geiger was correct in requiring the re-kick. That’s too far.

Watch it here:

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