Skip to content

Does Houston coach Dominic Kinnear have a point about diving in MLS?

Mar 18, 2013, 9:28 AM EDT

Seattle Sounders v Portland Timbers Getty Images

Being a referee really is an impossible assignment in some ways.

To call too many fouls is to incur the wrath of half the players and coaches, the set who believe in a more physical match.

But don’t whistle enough of them and we get what Major League Soccer long ego devolved into, an overly physical league full of muscle and tussle – incurring the wrath of players and coaches who prefer a slightly more technical game. Lots of fans, too, though surely not all of them.

So it really comes down to balance.

And that is the starting point for conversations on Dominic Kinnear’s rant on Sunday, aimed most pointedly at FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper, but also at those who dive and “cheat” around the league, according to the long-serving Houston Dynamo coach.

It’s a tricky balance, indeed.

A few years ago, MLS officials at the time believed that the scourge of diving and the slightly lesser offense of exaggerating or embellishing contact was the bigger issue. So Joe Machnik, head of MLS officials at the time, moved referees toward calling fewer fouls, reckoning that the game would “flow.” (He even cited a reduction in fouls called as evidence of better officiating.)

Of course, that’s not what happens. The referee whistle may blow fewer times – but the game tends to flow about as much as a clogged toilet. Players take the temperature and keep turning up the physical heat until they are made to do otherwise. The result is a mad circus of body checks, kicks and hacks, creating a game of turnovers that quickly gets hard on the eyes.

So, yes, it’s always about balance. It’s about hitting the sweet spot. It’s a contact sport, after all – but tackling and defending must always be about timing, skill, precision and just enough aggressiveness. It shouldn’t be tackle by collision.

Achieving that balance is not easy, but Kinnear has a point about more aggressive oversight on diving from Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee.

The committee can and has issued punishments for diving. A little more of that certainly could not hurt, putting those who fall and feign in greater danger of something punitive.

That wouldn’t stop the stuff (which Kinnear calls a recent “epidemic”), but it couldn’t hurt.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Man United target Nathaniel Clyne won’t decide his future until summer

    Mar 29, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC

    Are Saints about to lose another young star to one of the Premier League’s “big five?” We’ll find out this summer.

  2. Harry Kane will play for England U-21s at 2015 European Championship

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT

    Harry Kane, England Harry Kane, England

    Kane will join England’s U-21 squad for this summer’s European Championship.

  3. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 2-1 Toronto FC

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

    Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake

    No fun for 70 minutes, and then the final 20 happened. TFC’s criminally disallowed goal was the only difference in this one.

  4. Wayne Rooney: Teams are once again fearful of an “aggressive” England

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    Wayne Rooney, England Wayne Rooney, England

    There’s a real reason, other than “easy schedule,” for England’s improved performances since the World Cup.

  5. Report: Raheem Sterling will turn down any Liverpool contract offer until end of season

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Raheem Sterling, England Raheem Sterling, England

    Sterling isn’t interested in negotiating a new deal until the summer — even if it’s for $270,000/week — and a few reassurances are made.

  6. Luis Suarez says if he comes back to England, it would only be with Liverpool

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    Luis Suarez was candid as ever after Gerrard’s charity match, and he opened up the possibility of a Premier League return down the road.

  7. WATCH: Thierry Henry displays silky move at Gerrard charity match

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    Henry Getty Images

    Thierry Henry showed off his sparkling passing skills at Steven Gerrard’s testimonial.

  8. Aron Johannsson replaced on USMNT roster by Jordan Morris due to toe infection

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT

    Morris Getty Images

    The United States loses one of their goalscorers from Friday’s friendly, but now it’s a youngster’s turn to make a statement.

  9. Southampton posts first profit since administration

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    Southampton Getty Images

    A whopping turnaround, led by owner Katharina Liebherr, has taken place at St. Mary’s and the financial evidence is there.

  10. Belgium coach says Januzaj must earn his spot back at Manchester United

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    JanuzajWilmots Getty Images

    If Adnan Januzaj wants to make a return to the Belgium squad, he must focus on earning playing time at his club first.

  11. Report: Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner set to sell team to UK group

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT

    Lerner Getty Images

    An agreement has reportedly been reached between the current American owner and a domestic ownership group.

  12. Gareth Bale fires back at club critics after Wales success

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:34 AM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Gareth Bale knows what people are saying about his recent play at Real Madrid, but he’s not listening.

  13. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT

    Zach Loyd, FC Dallas Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

    A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.

  14. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver Whitecaps

    Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.

  15. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 1-0 LA Galaxy

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    D.C. United Getty Images

    It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.

  16. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City

    Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment