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Persistent infringement: the “other side” of the flopping issue

Mar 19, 2013, 12:02 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

Don’t think Dominic Kinnear didn’t know exactly what he was doing Sunday.

The Houston Dynamo manager (the longest serving manager in his current position in MLS) wasn’t just upset about Kenny Cooper, although all of his Dynamo orange was clearly leaning into the red at that moment about the big FCD striker.

(MORE: MLS responds to Kinnear’s criticism)

Kinnear knew he was starting a conversation – which was exactly his point. He loves and respects the game, and he was genuinely disgusted by his perceptions of something being done to hurt it. You may not agree. You may not enjoy the way Kinnear’s team lean to the physical side, and that’s fair. But no one should question the guy’s earnest desire for honesty in the game.

All that said, there is another side to diving and embellishment discussion. We talked about some of it yesterday, the tricky balance that can be so difficult to achieve.

Related, what about the scourge of persistent infringement?

How referees handle persistent, tactical fouling in midfield is an area where MLS policing has long been below par. There is just a level of sophistication missing, and Peter Walton and his PRO organization are presumably on the case here.

Here is a well-presented, well-thought out case for better enforcement of the game’s laws on persistent infringement. It applies beautifully here, because it uses examples from the very same match that had Kinnear so hopping mad.

There’s video evidence, for instance, of Ricardo Clark’s three fouls in the first 38 minutes.

  1. soccerjohn - Mar 19, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Steve, I think you make an important point here. I settled in to watch Seattle/Portland the other day because I figured it’d involve at least one good team and a great atmosphere. But, I eventually turned it off because the fouling and lack of calls were uglying up the game more than I was willing to watch. To be fair, I felt like the ref was calling it (or, more the point, *not* calling it) the same both ways. But there was no flow to the game because it seemed like players could do about anything they wanted so long as they really seemed to be trying to get the ball: run through a player’s back, knocking him over, to get the ball; push off, with full arm extension and follow-through; tackle through the legs to get the ball. I even watched a Seattle defender use a two-legged scissor to bring down an attacker in the penalty area without drawing so much as a whistle.

    I believe that MLS cannot succeed without attracting fans like me. I played for 35 years. I watch the USMNT religiously. I follow/watch US players abroad and watch games involving the developing US youth internationals. I’ve got 14 soccer sites set on my Internet Explorer “favorites bar.” I watched the DCU/NYRB game last weekend even though the soccer stank because it looked like a real soccer game and I care about my hometown United. And, the biggest reason I don’t watch more MLS games right now is that they are refereed so poorly.

  2. paladinvt - Mar 19, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    This is the single biggest issue in soccer today. It’s not just MLS, either. There are a couple of EPL sides who use the same tactic effectively, to the detriment of the game. Persistent fouling makes the game unpleasant to watch and just plain uglies it up, but until MLS issues a directive telling referrees to make it a point of emphasis, nothing is going to be done.

  3. scottp11 - Mar 19, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Yea, I actually think MLS have a different issue altogether. To me, it’s the full-on body contact all over the field. The tackling, diving and other issues that exist in other leagues I think is actually alright.

    But there’s this body-to-body contact, not unlike body or hip checking in hockey, that is allowed to pervade the MLS. I think that then sets the tone for choppy play.

  4. charliej11 - Mar 19, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I read all the comments and I agree completely. Reminds me of the hand check that basketball had to do away with…only in this case 5 (or 6 ) fouls, if they are called, do not throw you out of the game, they just mean your team can reset the defense.

  5. geojock - Mar 19, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    I think we walk a fine line here. Just take a look at the last foul along the sideline. That is not a 100% player looking to foul and it is not a 100% dive. It is a defender coming in with momentum and a player with the ball who recognizes this, pushes the ball forward and goes directly into and ensures contact.
    The player with the ball is breaking up the game as much as the defender. You can see a little bit of it in the other fouls as well.
    Cooper has taken a page out of Lenhart’s book. You play these big physical players who punish you off the ball then on the first challenge with the ball they either go down like a stick or throw their body into you going forward.
    I am not saying those aren’t fouls, I am just saying that the fouled player can be just as much as much at fault for breaking up the game. I am not saying that the offensive player should be punished either, just sometimes when a defender is off balance or not under control, some players chose to initiate contact to draw a foul rather than taking advantage of that disadvantaged defender by using a skillful pass or ankle-breaking ball move.

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