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Head of referee organization acknowledges mistake in D.C. United-Houston match

Nov 15, 2012, 11:25 AM EDT

Hainault 2

The head of domestic soccer’s recently formed Professional Referee’s Organization has walked back on his original assessment of Sunday’s controversial incident in Houston.

Now, PRO general manager Peter Walton says Dynamo defender Andrew Hainault should have been ejected for his first-half take-down on D.C. United midfielder Raphael Augusto during the teams’ Eastern Conference Championship contest.

Referee Ricardo Salazar, seeing contact from both players, declined to whistle a foul. Contacted by NBC at halftime, Walton said he believed a foul had occurred but said it warranted a free kick and a yellow card. No clear goal scoring opportunity had been denied, in his initial evaluation.

But yesterday PRO issued a statement in which Walton altered his stance.

In review of that play, my opinion has changed in as much as the defender, which I thought in real time would have influenced the play, clearly was behind the action and therefore the disciplinary sanction should have been a red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

“I made the initial statement on my real time opinion without having the advantage of a replay. Having reviewed the replay, it is clear it ticks all the boxes for a denial of as goal scoring opportunity and a send-off should have been the outcome.”

So, a mistake was made. But comments in other forums (hopefully from a minority opinion) have wondered about a league level conspiracy.

Yes, it certainly was so. And the malevolent message to referee Ricardo Salazar was surely delivered by men who were fast-roped in from black helicopters. Or perhaps passed via clandestine couriers who meet on isolated park benches – you know, where surveillance efforts are more problematic.

The bottom line here: refereeing in MLS is a problem, one the league was slow to acknowledge and address. That said, concerted efforts are happening now. This is hardly the first refereeing kerfuffle.

Besides, decisions on penalty kicks, red cards and such are tough in every league across the globe. The men in the middle get some right and they get some wrong. It will always be so. (My complaints on MLS officiating have always been about match management, lenient enforcement and a general resistance to call simple fouls.)

It is too bad for D.C. United – but let’s all check the conspiracy theories at the door.

  1. dubdiz12 - Nov 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    This probably plays into the conspiracy theories, but let’s be honest, there have been an awful lot of no-calls that played to the advantage of DC United’s opponents so far in the playoffs…

  2. mkbryant3 - Nov 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Wow. This has Petraeus’s fingerprints all over it.

  3. orbmech - Nov 15, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Interesting. During the run of play he thought it was a yellow card but on viewing later with slow motion and angles the match ref didn’t have, he decided it was a red. A call for instant replay? Now DC can decide to play the victim – whine and feel sorry for themselves – or they can move on and try to come back on Sunday. Which will it be DC?

  4. geojock - Nov 15, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Why all the talk now? The bigger point is we need this type of accountability ALL SEASON. Hopefully things will change in 2013.
    2nd, we call can agree that it was the wrong call, but I still dont think it was a bad call by the ref. Walton GOT IT WRONG TOO, but with all his replays and all this talk a week later changes his mind. So if it took him a week and all these replays to get it right, then how can we really expect the ref to get it right at the speed of the game, from his angle. At game speed it certainly look like to me that Augusto pushed off then just got tangled. I think we can lay off the ref a bit here, i dont have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of calls worse than this during the MLS season/playoffs. I also hope there isnt a backlash by the refs on Sunday as a result.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 15, 2012 at 1:04 PM

      Agree. Pretty much said the same thing in this post …

      It was a difficult call all along.

  5. wyrm1 - Nov 15, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    I think it was a pretty bad call, but that’s what it was, a bad call.

    I think there is a pretty clear bias among refs with regards to how much slack certain star players (*Beckham, Donovan, etc…) receive from the refs, but I don’t think Andrew Hainault is one of them :-)

    The problem is the conflating this call with the other issues this playoff season. DC has gotten the short end of the stick on several issues this off season that were designed to help Red Bull at their expense (whether or not you think they were good decisions, they did favor Red Bull), and seeing their team fall apart after what probably should have been a red card has just made them more frustrated (at least me :-) ).

    I guess it is nice that the head of officiating admitted that a mistake was made, but it is ultimately meaningless unless the league and USSF take some action to improve the officiating. That includes consequences for clearly wrong calls, but it also needs to involve significantly more support from the league in supporting referees who do well and are abused by players and coaches.

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