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Referee Ricardo Salazar: ineffective in the middle Sunday

Nov 11, 2012, 7:31 PM EDT

Ricardo Salazar, Marvin Chavez, Tim Ream

Once among the league’s better officials, Ricardo Salazar has lately acquiesced to the most recurring MLS refereeing fault: refusal to call fouls and stubborn refusal to get on top of things early.

Both teams at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday had ample ammunition for displeasure. And in the end, the fans lose more than either team because they see – stop us if you’ve heard this before – another match where skill counts for less, while cynical fouling is granted tacit approval.

In the wrongheaded effort to “let them play,” here’s what Salazar missed:

Robbie Russell’s brutal, flying body assault on Adam Moffat, which eventually forced the Dynamo holding midfielder from the match. (Russell really should have been cautioned three different times over the 90 minutes.)

Nick DeLeon’s awful tackle on Kofi Sarkodie near the team benches. And D.C. Untied teammate Brandon McDonald got his shots in, too.

(MORE: Analysis of the Houston Dynamo win Sunday)

But if Salazar’s damage to Houston’s larger playoff ambitions was more “death by 1,000 cuts,” it was a giant hammer blow to D.C. United.

United has lots of reason to believe the match could have turned when Dynamo center back Andrew Hainault dragged down midfielder Raphael Augusto  just before the half. There was some defensive cover around, so perhaps red wasn’t warranted; it was debatable whether Houston’s center back denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the major criteria for a red card in that situation.

But as Augusto had position in the tussle and was bearing in on goal, it was a booking and a free kick at very least. Unless you’re Salazar, apparently.

Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of him for the 2012 playoffs.

  1. novisaddude - Nov 11, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    It was Augusto (#12) who was pulled down. Agreed on the rest. Ironically, Hainault went to open Dynamo’s comeback…

  2. wyrm1 - Nov 11, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    You were pretty much spot on here… Typical poor MLS reffing performance. Salazar didn’t want to make the game changing decision, and so changed the game in a different way, there is no way that isn’t a red card, unless you don’t have the balls to make the call.

    • tylerbetts - Nov 11, 2012 at 9:52 PM

      THANK YOU.

      I hate the “let them play” argument, because it changes the game when you don’t make a call just as much (if not more) then when you do. To not give a red, or at least a yellow and a very dangerous free kick, too a HUGE advantage away from DC, and as a result gave Houston an unfair advantage. This is the kind of MLS game that ticks me off – you let too much go without a booking and we don’t get the skill … just the physical play.

      • wyrm1 - Nov 11, 2012 at 10:03 PM

        Let’s be fair here, Salazar let a LOT of stuff go against Houston as well (and I’m a DC fan). DeLeon and Russell should have gotten yellows in the first half. My issue is that there is no wiggle room on the DOGSO call, and Salazar didn’t want to change the game, so didn’t call an obvious foul.

        My respect for the head of refs went out the window when he claimed it should have been yellow because of a defender who was 10 yards from the play.

  3. donjuego - Nov 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    You don’t mention the clear handball in the box in the first half on DCU.

    While I can agree with you on changing the way MLS refs playoff games — it is not the time to start in the middle of this playoff cycle. That game was very typical for the way MLS refs handle playoff games this year and the last many years since I’ve been following.

    On the Hainault/Augusto tussle, you fail to mention that Hainault had position on Augusto and Augusto knocked Hainault down prompting Hainualt to drag him down. That play could have been called three ways: 1) foul on Augusto, 2) foul on Hainualt, and 3) play on, according to your view point and your biases. Play on was a more reasonable call than you or other commentators are allowing.

    • schuleg - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:08 AM

      I actually agree with your assessment and I believe that unless Salazar was just flat out crooked, the fact that Augusto initiated the contact and looked to go out of his way to run in to Haineault is why nothing was called. To be sure, Haineault pulled him down, but while it’s clear from the replays showing the front of the players, the scene from behind looks like is that Augusto tried to muscle off Haineault.

      Still a poor performance from the referee and it’ll make next Sunday even more interesting.

  4. cupquest - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    donjuego — you’re kidding yourself.

    I have no dog in the fight (SKC fan), but that was a clear red-card worthy take down from any angle (side, back, front). It wasn’t even close. The contact initated by Augusto (shoulder to shoulder) is completely legal. The arm pull and scissors-style leg take down is about the most obvious missed call I’ve ever seen in MLS. If you’re United, lick your wounds and come back fighting. If you’re Houston, thank your lucky stars and pray you get Salazar to get assigne dnext weekend!

  5. zoophagous - Nov 13, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    I’ll just leave this here:

    http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2012/10/20/seattle-sounders-ricardo-salazar-sigi-schmid/

    • Richard Farley - Nov 13, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      What happened on Sunday in no way justifies a few Seattle fans’ demonization of Ricardo Salazar, particularly after a game (Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake) where Salazar did little wrong.

      I know a couple of Seattle fans were critical of my post, which is understandable. Fans defending themselves and their club is great to see. It’s good spirit. But Sigi and the club quickly walked back from his post-match comments, and while that could have been window dressing, it was still symptomatic of a fixation that’s gone beyond merely knowing a referee’s name.

      While it’s true that many MLS fans have a referee of choice, it’s not true that most fans would take it to the heights some Seattle fans have. No other fans have come that close. Harkening back to the Schmid-Salazar monster post seems like a symptom.

      I understand this comment may spark a new round of this discussion, but Seattle fans certainly deserve their say.

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