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Jason Kreis vs. referee assignments; is the Real Salt Lake manager correct in his complaints?

Jul 22, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Real Salt Lake v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

Before you read Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis’ caustic comments on referee Matthew Foerster, here are the relevant facts:

  • Foerster came into Saturday’s contest with 15 matches of MLS experience.
  • This was a contest between two of the league’s top teams of the moment, the current Eastern and Western conference leaders. Real Salt Lake is currently in the Supporters Shield lead.
  • Sporting Kansas City matches are difficult to deal with. The team is smart in its tactical, midfield fouling and, along with San Jose, the league’s most physical team. Plus, manager Peter Vermes will go apoplectic along the sidelines about the smallest things, like10 yards of positioning on a throw-in.
  • Real Salt Lake’s Chris Wingert was ejected, receiving his second yellow card in the 66th minute. That turned the match, which RSL was leading at the time. SKC’s game-winner fell in the 97th minute.
  • The second yellow was harsh – but the first was probably a yellow and a half as Wingert lined up and leveled Kei Kamara. So, that’s a wash in my mind.

So … here’s what Kreis had to say:

Again, I don’t want to belabor the point about the referee being poor. He is going to be poor. It is the 16th match of his entire career. To referee in a sold-out stadium, in a first-place versus second-place matchup is the wrong game for somebody that has [little] experience in professional soccer refereeing.”

“I asked again, and I’ll say it now: Maybe I need to call them and speak to them directly. There needs to be more thought about how we are assigning the referees.”

So, does he have a point?

Yes and no.

There are instances where I have said the same this year, that these things deserve more thought.

As for Saturday, there were certainly more experienced men out there. In Chicago, Edvin Jurisevic was doing his 60st MLS match (one between two teams nowhere near playoff positions). In Toronto, Jorge Gonzalez was on MLS match No. 101. In Montreal, Hilario Grajeda was on his 90th MLS match. (Although, in fairness, Impact manager Marco Schallibaum is proving quite difficult to deal with, so an experienced man is handy there.)

So, in that regard, Kreis has a point.

But are those guys much better than Foerster? Not much, if we’re being honest.

The other element to consider here is a busy summer of soccer that is stretching the pool of experienced referees.

The bottom line here: Major League Soccer refereeing is improving … slowly. Believe me. It is.

But clearly there is still some distance to go; the best everyone can hope for is continued improvement, and that the bad breaks equal out in the end.

  1. lunasceiling - Jul 22, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Wingert could reasonably have gotten a straight red for that rugby-level hit on Kamara, so you could look at the following 60+ minutes he was on the pitch as borrowed time. =)

    MLS refereeing is improving. It'[s just hard to see that sometime when a sketchy call goes against your team. It has been ever thus…

  2. jrocknstuff - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Agreed. Kreis is lucky he wasn’t playing down a man for 89 minutes. Of course I’d love to have heard his comments had Wingert received a straight red.

  3. dws110 - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Sheesh, MLS refs simply cannot win, can they? TFC had a legitimate complaint that they were being unfairly assigned inexperienced refs (MLS/PRO agreed with TFC), so now this article is questioning whether matches without playoff implications should be assigned less experienced refs…

    Does Kreis think he should be entitled to hand-pick his refs? That RSL is somehow more deserving of an experienced ref than any other team in the league? MLS refs are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    Bring back Alex Prus, that guy was fantastic.

    • sombraala - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      Totally miss Prus, class act and excellent ref – I think he tweeted (yes, a ref with twitter, how awesome is that?) that he had a problem with his knee or something, but whatever it was he just wasn’t fit for the professional game anymore.

      Really, though, the refs are getting better. Much better, in fact. Fact of the matter is that all refs screw up at some point, even the best in the world. MLS refs aren’t the best in the world yet, but just because they screw up from time to time doesn’t make them horrible.

      Forrester will learn a lot from this game and will be better for it.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I always look forward to mlssoccer.com’s weekly Instant Replay video, looking at each week’s referee decisions. But this week’s should be epic.

  5. poquimoqui - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    The problem with the ref in the RSL game was that he didn’t know when to end the game. He gave 5 additional minutes when 3 should’ve sufficed. And then he turns the 5 minutes into 8. Had he stopped the game at the 5 minute make (the ball was out of bounds near midfield) neither side would’ve complained.

    • dreadpirate82 - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      Go back and watch extra time. Morales rolled around on the ground for about a minute, which added time. Then there were scuffles in the box on a throw-in that was immediately sent out of bounds for a corner. He had to take all the time-wasting into account.

      • poquimoqui - Jul 23, 2013 at 11:26 AM

        Morales was the most-fouled player in this game. He had a right to roll around for a second because he was hurt. There was no complaint from SKC for time-wasting because they knew they pounded the living daylights out of Morales.

    • gamebreaker04 - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:52 PM

      After 4+ years of visiting these sites I finally had to create a log in for your post poquimoqui…

      Do you watch soccer? Have you ever played soccer?

      These are legitimate questions given your ideas on when regulation should have ended.

      You don’t blow the final whistle until the attacking team has lost control of the ball and it has been cleared from danger. There were 4 minutes of stoppage time given. Inside those 4 minutes, one of RSL players laid on the ground for a minute, thus adding a couple of seconds or so to the time. Next, at 4 minutes, SKC has possession of the ball and is in RSL’s attacking third when the ball goes out for a close throw in. SKC leisurely takes their time assuming this is the final play of the game, which if the Goalie would have caught it or the ball cleared, it would have been. However, the ball is immediately headed out for a corner, thereby continuing the game. Again, SKC leisurely sets up for the corner as it is now surely the last play of the game…Goal.

      Every person who has ever watched or played soccer is more than aware that the ending of the game was called right on time.

      Stupid post.

      • poquimoqui - Jul 23, 2013 at 11:21 AM

        Glad I caused you to create an account to respond to me, the editors of this site pay me for every person that signs up due to my posts… :-P

        I won’t reveal my soccer credentials on here but my resume is rather long. So please keep your judgmental comments to yourself. Let’s talk about the events.

        My main argument: 5 minutes was too much additional time.

        My second argument: The ball goes out of bounds just past midfield around 5 minute mark. Perfect time for a referee who has bungled a lot of calls to get out alive from the stadium.

        I stand by both statements.

        Your argument: You don’t blow the final whistle when a team is in the attacking third of the field. Yet he blows the whistle with RSL attacking the SKC goal less than 30 seconds after the restart. Where is the logic?

      • poquimoqui - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        And BTW, looks like the MLS also agrees with the additional time. This was posted in this week’s MLS Power RAnkings about SKC:

        “Solid argument for moving up all the way to No. 1, but we’re still trying to figure out where that extra two minutes of stoppage came from. By PPG, this is the league’s hottest team.”

    • wfjackson3 - Jul 23, 2013 at 5:43 AM

      For anyone still complaining about stoppage time, I just went and watched the replay. In the announced five minutes of stoppage time, there was an additional 1:32 of play stoppages. Through the SKC goal, there was 2:42 of play stoppages. Hard to disagree with the additional time given that information.

      • poquimoqui - Jul 23, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        You will be hard-pressed to find a game where there is no time-wasting during the stoppage time. Injuries are part of the game and do not add time to the game unless a trainer has to come on the field and attend the player. No trainer entered the field during stoppage time. Morales was fouled hard and rightfully took his time getting up. He is the second-most fouled player in the MLS and this game was no exception. He took some hard fouls all game long.

      • wfjackson3 - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:54 AM

        A trainer does not have to enter the field in order for a referee to award stoppage time. And a reasonable argument could be made that Morales flopped there. Lastly, the frequency with which Morales is fouled is irrelevant in this discussion.

      • poquimoqui - Jul 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        Correct, but a trainer entering the field is definitely taken into account for stoppage time. A player that gets up on his own is considered part of the game. The frequency of Morales being fouled is very relevant because every hard fouls takes a little out of your gas tank.

        Finally, looks like the MLS agrees with me and the additional time. This is taken from the MLS Power Rankings for this week, speaking of SKC:

        “Solid argument for moving up all the way to No. 1, but we’re still trying to figure out where that extra two minutes of stoppage came from. By PPG, this is the league’s hottest team.”

        Looks like I’m not the only one who thought the game should’ve ended at 5 minutes.

      • wfjackson3 - Jul 26, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        That isn’t a case of the MLS agreeing with you. That is the case of a blogger agreeing with you. Congratulations.

  6. cattlecaller - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    Jason is right that RSL gets inexperienced referees this season. (See http://www.rslsoapbox.com/stats-analysis/2013/7/21/4543842/consistent-inexperienced-referee-selection-for-mls-rsl-matches-raises). He is wrong that this is something to complain about. The referee assignments should not look at what teams are in first place when making assignments this early in the season. Maybe towards the end of the season, it should be considered, but right now, it simply shouldn’t matter.

  7. player169 - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    I’m guessing that Kreis said all this post game prior to seeing the replay on Kamara. If he has seen the replay and still has something to say about the ref I would love to see that. Coaches often like to lip off after a match based on emotion. I bet he is embarrassed now…

    Maybe he’ll shut his mouth next time…

    • genebrooklyn - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      Good luck with Kreis shutting his mouth about the referees (and I like Jason). If he is married, I can’t imagine what his wife has to say about his blowing $500 or $1,000 in fines each week because he can’t shut his mouth about the refs.

    • Steve Davis - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Actually, Kreis began his press conference by saying something along the lines of “Sorry to keep you guys waiting … I wanted to look at the replay of the Kamara foul before I talked about it.” So …

      • alpacafarmerslc - Jul 23, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Steve, Kreis was speaking of Wingert’s foul on Saad, not on Kamara. Here is Kreis’ response to the red card:

        “I just watched the replay and I wanted to come in with facts not opinions of what I saw or what I think I saw – I needed to watch it again. It’s a poor decision, an extremely poor decision against us. He barely touches the player, and he falls down. Now we’re picking up a second yellow card when there were multiple players on their team and weren’t picking up yellow cards for the same exact actions – pulling shirts, stopping counter attacks in the first half. The level of consistency was the lowest I’ve seen from a referee in MLS. And again, I don’t want to belabor the point about the referee being poor.”

        Please make sure you validate your sources. If not, you sound like any average blogger, not a journalist.

  8. socamr - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    What I’m wondering is why this match gets all the coverage – Sorin Stoica had 16 MLS games under his belt before trying to referee the San Jose-Seattle rugby match last weekend. It’s just part of MLS’ trying to bring along a new and hopefully improved group of referees.

    And yes, a more experienced referee probably would have red-carded Wingert off the bat, so Kreis should thank his lucky stars he had a newbie on the pitch.

  9. talgrath - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    SLC is frequently a…let’s call them “physical” team, Kreis has no room to complain, particularly in that game. The Kamara shoulder slam should have been a straight red for Wingert, not a yellow and SLC should have been a man down for virtually the entire match, rather than roughly 30 minutes.

    • alpacafarmerslc - Jul 23, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      According to the MLS Team Statistics, SKC is leading the league in fouls commited with 308. RSL is 13th with 236 fouls commited.

      If you are going to make assumptions go right ahead, if you want to state facts, use numbers.

      • talgrath - Jul 23, 2013 at 3:52 PM

        Just because they aren’t called on it, doesn’t mean they aren’t a physical team; SLC gets a lot of non-calls in my opinion.

  10. elarquero81 - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    In the interest of full disclosure – RSL fan here….

    For those still reading, let me say that in my opinion (from the perspective of watching the game in person), Wingert definitely should have been ejected (and probably after that body check in the first minute). I don’t care how “soft” it was – you don’t reach out and grab a guy when he’s blown by you, especially when you are already sitting on a yellow card. Also, while the match did go over the 5 added minutes, I was wondering at the game what Morales was thinking when he was rolling around on the pitch in extra time since that was just going to add more time on at the end.

    That being said, the problem I had with the ref was the consistency. At the end of the first half, RSL had three yellow cards, and to be honest, all three were definitely justified. But the problem was that KC’s guys were doing the exact same things as RSL’s guys, and not only weren’t they shown yellows, but were rarely whistled for the foul. For example, Wingert’s second yellow was definitely the right call, but earlier in the game, one of KC’s guys (I think it was Opara) had reached out and grabbed Morales’ jersey in a very similar play, but not even a foul was called. While this is obviously going to happen from time to time, it was very persistent throughout this game.

    I think the point here isn’t that some of those calls shouldn’t have been made, it’s that if you’re going to call it one way, then call it the other way as well. I could care less if a guy has 10 or 100 games experience – as long as he’s consistent, then at least players, coaches, and fans can know what to expect.

    I think the sad thing about all of this is KC isn’t getting as much credit as they deserve. While I felt RSL outplayed KC for the most part until the ejection, KC responded and kept the pressure up the rest of the game. Here’s to hoping these two teams meet again in December with the cup on the line and with more consistent refereeing.

  11. gamebreaker04 - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    About time someone posted a logical argument. elarquero81, you have some good opinions in that post. While yes, the card differential was definable glaring and there were some fouls by SKC that could have been elevated to a yellow, but I think that is were the inconsistency hit both sides, for example Collin’s yellow was a bit weak but was probably a make-up or a culmination yellow (a bunch of hard fouls in a row will get you a yellow often).

    With regards to Opara’s shirt grab, I think the sentence “The team is smart in its tactical, midfield fouling” above speaks volumes to that call and SKC’s style. SKC is pretty good at ‘fouling in the right spots’, meaning, they love that Espinoza, Rossell, Olum shirt grab right at half field before they make it to anyone at the back line. Because it’s not a breakaway (like Saad’s, eventhough it was a sideline breakaway), it’s a yellow 50% of the time probably, depending on the severity of the hold.

    All in all, I think it was a great game and if anything, shows the level of intensity that will continue to make the MLS grow in popularity.

    One last point, I’m actually surprised that no one has made a bigger deal of the landfill of trash that RSL threw onto the pitch at the end of the game, would like to see a bigger backlash from RSL’s main fans but I’m not hearing it much…

    • gamebreaker04 - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:51 PM

      definitely not definable

    • loganthehuge2 - Jul 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM

      I was sitting two sections over.

      I thought, regardless of the match’s outcome, that it was absolute bush-league form on behalf of some of our fans.

    • elarquero81 - Jul 22, 2013 at 7:14 PM

      Agreed about the Collin card, with how quick that came after Wingert’s ejection it seemed like it was a makeup call (and the foul was nowhere near as egregious as some of his earlier ones).

      And yes, that fan display was pretty pathetic. I was pretty hopeful when the night began because I noticed the YSA chant was almost non-existent, but then the crap on the field came and reminded me why I’m embarrassed to be a fan of Utah sports sometimes. I think the majority of Utah sports fans are fine, but there are a small percentage that make us all look horrible. I know there are pockets of Jazz fans that pull the same crap when things don’t go their way. I don’t care what happens, there’s never an excuse to throw garbage on the field.

  12. bobinkc - Jul 22, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    elarquero, one thing you have to remember is that a foul must be seen to be called. When a player is stupid enough to perform a flagrant foul right in front of one of the officiating team members, he will be called for the foul. If the player is smart enough to foul when backs are turned, he can get away with murder both literally and figuratively. It doesn’t make any difference whether any official has 15 games or 215, if a foul happens right in front of you, it is really hard to miss and not call it. Both of Wingert’s fouls were blatant, egregious, and right in front an official. Why would he not be called on both of them?

    As far as Kreis’ complaints about poor officiating, he either needs to stick a cork in it or teach his players how to play smarter, i.e., not to foul when the ref is looking right at you. Vermes regularly pitches a fit about officiating, but manages to keep from making too many public comments about it. Kreis needs to learn to keep it inside his office rather than yapping to the press every time he doesn’t agree with a call. That might keep his paychecks up and his wife happier.

    In terms of the RSL crowd, yes we get upset in KC about calls, but our protests are limited to booing and loud harassment. Throwing anything on the pitch at any point before, during, or after a game is utterly unforgiveable and should be punished by the park officials. We had an incident when a beer can was thrown on to the pitch during a match accidentally; the stupid sap just let go of the can at exactly the wrong spot in all his arm swinging. He is now banned in perpetuity from Sporting Park. Even our more hotblooded Latino fans understand completely that anything they throw has to go up in the air, not out on to the pitch. Our son went to a game a couple of years ago where the audience was about 98% Mexican and came back absolutely soaked in beer; everything that was thrown from beer to popcorn went straight up in the air and came straight back down.

    Just a thought for any readers who plan to come to Kansas City for a game: don’t throw it onto the pitch. You will be caught, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, you will be fined, and you will probably do jail time regardless of where you are from.

    • elarquero81 - Jul 22, 2013 at 7:25 PM

      I couldn’t agree more with the Wingert calls, but my problem with the Opara shirt pull was that it WAS right in front of the ref (at least from my angle), which was why I was so incredulous that it wasn’t called. It looked like the ref was literally 10-20 yards away, watching the ball, with no obstructions in front of him, and nothing was called.

      Like I said, I do know calls are going to be missed every game, and it does go both ways. But that ref simply had no control over the game right from the start. I think that’s where I do agree with Kreis – not necessarily that the calls against RSL were bad or the extra time was too long, but that a ref with more experience and more ability to control the game, especially such a high profile one, was needed.

      Also, glad to hear your fans are hopefully more mature than some of ours. I love that the guy was thrown out, I wish that would happen more here. I really do feel most of RSL and Utah fans in particular are great, but there are an unfortunately high number that act like idiots.

  13. player169 - Jul 22, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    SD, thanks for the heads up on Kreis’ post game comments. The fact that he watched the replay and still manage to comment on the ref the way he did puts him in the lead for MLS idiot of the year in my book…

  14. geojock - Jul 23, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Just look at the number of complaints made by coaches after a SKC game. Also look at the cards give to SKC opponents. SKC is making a joke of MLS.

  15. joeyt360 - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I think this article misses the point. To claim that his team is ‘too good’ for a ref ‘only in his 14th game’ (how’s he going to get to 14, btw? By reffing some MLS games that are beneath RSL’s massive dignity?) is, especially because it indicates Kreis researched the stat to deploy strategically, inherently manipulative.

    To even discuss it seriously is, at some level, to buy into a coach’s mind-games that are designed just to influence and cow referees down the line. The real question is what punishment is appropriate to Kreis for trying to influence the refereeing?

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