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Schmid, Sounders fans erect a big, bad Salazar Monster

Oct 20, 2012, 10:16 AM EDT

Real Salt Lake v Seattle Sounders Getty Images

Sigi Schmid’s halftime comments drew a few giggles from media and club officials that were amassed in the press box at Wednesday’s match. The smiles weren’t from agreement or discord with Schmid’s description of Ricardo Salazar (the night’s official) as Real Salt Lake’s 12th man. They were ironic chuckles, the kind you’d hear through the hum as a Woody Allen movie played out its farce.

We knew it was coming. The moment Salazar’s appointment was announced, Sounder fans made him the focus. Of course the calls would be the story, particularly in a match that ended 0-0. For days after the result, one in which a 10-man Sounders earned a point from Real Salt Lake, Seattle fans continue to bemoan Salazar (see comments here and here).

There’s one little problem with the complaints: Salazar wasn’t actually that bad on Wednesday. I shared my qualms with the second card on Zach Scott, but I was asking Salazar to use discretion he’s under no obligation to employ. For his part, Schmid (after the match) had no problem with the dismissal. The non-call on Tony Beltran’s first half hand ball was ultimately justified (Schmid questioned is but admitted he hadn’t seen the replay). Chris Schuler saw yellow for a second half challenge that never gets a red card (despite Sounder fans’ calls to even the teams), while Schmid’s complaints about too much time add at match’s end was another example of a coach ignoring the referee’s right to add time to the fourth official’s number.

At some point, someone needs to tell Seattle that there is no huge, green, Salazar Monster marching through Elliott Bay toward CenturyLink field. If the myth of a malevolent Salazar is more than a paranoid fabrication, we’ve yet to see proof.

Schmid, after the match on Wednesday, did make an interesting circumstantial case. All the 50-50 calls in Salazar’s games seem to go against the Sounders, Schmid noted. Undoubtedly that’s an exaggeration, but the list of memorable incidents are starting to pile up. Three calls in the U.S. Open Cup final (Patrick Ianni dismissal, late hand ball for Sporting’s equalizer, ordering a retake in the shootout), a dismissal of Fredy Montero in Portland, and Wednesday’s decisions all went against the Sounders.

Yet all of those moments were, as Schmid said, were 50-50 calls. At worst. Montero’s dismissal, the Beltran non-call – those weren’t 50-50 incidents. Those were the right calls.

It’s also unlikely Schmid or Sounders’ fans are looking for pro-Seattle calls with the same rigor. That would completely defeat the purpose. Fans are supposed to hate referees. Now Seattle have their pantomime villain, though if you’re going to collect 38,000 of your friends to chant “Salazar sucks” (or resort to an ineffectual internet petition as trite as the demonization of an official), you might want something more conclusive than wounded fandom and coin flips.

Now, as Seattle persists with a chance at the second-best record in the league (which would improve their chance to host MLS Cup), their coach has gotten himself suspended. Yet Schmid’s being defended in all mediums by a fan base that’s taking the obligatory, let’s hate one official, meme to sigh-inducing heights. Three days on, the echos of Wednesday’s chants are still registering on fan sites and social media. Even though Seattle can go second with a win over Dallas tomorrow, Wednesday continues to loop (too) large.

There’s nothing about this situation that’s fair to Salazar, who is seeing the negatives of a huge, new fan base whose loyalty seems to obligate accordance with their coach’s views. Nobody deserves to have this kind of disproportionate attention born from such inconclusive evidence.

One of two things needs to happen: Sounder fans need to become more discerning about their views, or Schmid needs to be more responsible about his comments.

That, or we can just keep erecting Salazar Monsters.

  1. east96st - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Steve,

    All valid points. But, bottom line, Sigi’s job is to win games. He does that quite well. Part of that is influencing the refs. When Sigi abandoned Columbus, so did the officials. Warzycha has no ability to work the officials. In fact, he seems to only piss them off. As a result, Columbus usually gets mugged at home. Whether we like it or not, officials can be, and are, influenced by top coaches and hostile crowds. A call or two going your way at home DOES make a difference. Sigi’s got a shot at another championship and Warzycha is looking at a high probability of losing his job unless the Crew pull out a miracle and get into the playoffs. Personally, I miss the days when Crew player would get an automatic whistle at home when he’s taken down from behind. Now, it’s “play on”. Those are the kind of calls that can make the difference between getting one point or three. Sigi is doing everything he can to make sure his team wins. Purists may find it unseemly, and you can argue it should never happen, but as long as it works, Sigi is doing his job. Demonizing Salazar means any ref who walks onto that field knows he could be next. If that makes the official hesitate to call a foul, well, hats off to Sig for working the system.Is it fair? Absolutely not. But it’s up to the MLS to adopt a zero tolerance policy and dish out very hash punishment to make it stop.

  2. snesbittsea - Oct 20, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    The one thing lacking in all this discussion is nuance or a willingness to look at the issues without resorting to the cheap answers of – on one hand – that Seattle supporters are whiners to – on the other hand – that Salazar has it out for Seattle and is actively abusing his position.

    Sounders’ supporters issues with respect to Salazar are not simply a matter of this year and the US Open Cup. The issues are rooted in Salazar’s performance over the past 3 years both with respect to his officiating at Sounders games and his officiating at other games.

    The concerns are twofold. First, there is a concern regards Salazar’s apparent lack of consistency in his application of the rules. Salazar’s calls in past games may have been correct by the book but were they consistently applied to both teams? I have my doubts, but no one in MLS or the press has made any attempt to address it much yet refute it.

    Second, there is a concern that Salazer too frequently injects his personality and the his presence into determining the game. Arguably a sign of good reffing is invisibility where after the match one can say that one didn’t notice either the presence or absence of the referree and clearly the game was determined by the teams involved.

    So MLS and press, step up and educate us Sounders’ supporters about why the concerns listed above are incorrect. Explain to us why the handball called by Salazar in the Open Cup is not a handball on Sunday’s match. Explain to us why Spurning is off his line and the other keeper is not and why Salazar made the call and not his linemen. Explain to us why Prus had to apologize for the incorrect red card linesman Salazar gave to Leo Gonzalez a couple years back. Explain to us an earlier game this year where Salazar consistently overrode his linesmen? Explain to us why so many of his games end up in controversy and debate and acrimony.

    Calling Salazar incompetent is a cop out. Calling Sounders misguided is a cop out too. How about a little analysis and nuance?

    • zoophagous - Oct 21, 2012 at 3:51 AM

      ^ Nailed it.

      First and foremost the author seems to think this issue just magically appeared. We (Sounders fans) didn’t just learn Salazar’s name this past week. And to Sigi’s point I know Salazar’s name. I know it because of the USOC final. I have been a Sounder STH for 3 years and I only know two other ref’s names; Giger (because I am an HR Giger fan) and Shott (sp? because his name strikes me as funny). That’s it.

      All sports fans complain about refs. Ask Green Bay Packer fans. The author seems to think this is unique to Sounder fans. It’s not. Never has been, never will be. Recall the Timbers owner confronting the refs? Where was the author’s angst then? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VNrJcErlxo

      Keep telling yourself it’s just Sounder fans that have an issue with MLS refs.

    • ravegreenstreet - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:51 PM

      Very, very well said snesbittsea.

      Richard, I’m not entirely sure how Schuler’s last-man foul on a breakaway (which a 1-on1 should always be considered a clear goal scoring opportunity) is not a red card. Please explain to me how that works. Yes, Borchers was somewhat in the vicinity, but there is absolutely no way he could have caught up with Montero. If you remember last year at RioT, Olave got a red card for the exact same foul against Mike Fucito. He took him down around the same distance from the goal, with Borchers around the same distance away from Fucito, if not a yard closer. So if you could let me know how that doesn’t earn a red card, that would be great.

  3. mmancini99 - Oct 20, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Sounders Nation in a nutshell…its always someone else’s fault.

    • ravegreenstreet - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      Yes, because we’re the only fans in sports to ever complain about referees. As if it isn’t as old as sports itself.

  4. dhagentj - Oct 20, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    I don’t think he is biased one way or another, and I have no clue on this idea that he is some sort of diva, but the level of inconsistency he displays is downright maddening. A yellow going one way can be waved off not 20 seconds later on the other club. This happens both ways, though obviously as fans, we more frequently notice it when it goes against our team. And this year, that inconsistency has clearly hurt the Sounders (particularly in the Open Cup Final). It is as much the calls that are whistled as the ones which aren’t.
    While the Sounders fanbase as a whole knows the names of a few league referees (like Toledo and Stott) Salazar has been on their bad side since year one, and it has jumped to a new level in 2012. The handball Wednesday was not terribly notable on its own and would go without a call without much complaining most games, but it was nearly the same as Salazar’s handball on Zach Scott in that Cup Final, and less egregious than the one he didn’t call on Kansas City in the first half of that game.

  5. Sounder Nation - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    Sounders Nation has a problem with the way Salazar injects himself into the big games. He is obsessed with making a big call in big games, not just with sounders, but any national stage game he gets.

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