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Portland’s Caleb Porter calls refereeing vs. Seattle “lopsided;” he’s right and yet wrong at once

Aug 26, 2013, 1:01 PM EDT

Caleb Porter-Timbers

Before we get into comments from the Portland Timbers’ manager, let’s be responsible and frame this thing in the proper context.

Timbers manager Caleb Porter said his team played well in the 1-0 loss. Not perfectly, but pretty well – a pretty accurate assessment. The visitors created better chances in the first half, especially considering they were missing their emotional fulcrum, Will Johnson, but did dropped a notch after the break.

“In the end, we’re going to keep suffering if we don’t find goals and if we don’t sort out set pieces,” Porter said, referring to the ongoing issues with defending corner kicks and free kicks.

That said, Porter also commented (without blaming) referee Jair Marrufo.

To be fair, I thought the officiating was very lopsided, extremely lopsided, for whatever reason. They have guys who commit three, four fouls, the same one, no card, and we commit one and it’s a card. Watch the tape, you explain it because I can’t understand it. We’re talking the same exact foul, same exact foul, we’re doing a foul, they’re doing a foul, and we get a card and they don’t get a card. Explain it. I don’t get it. It makes no sense to me.”

“[Osvaldo Alonso] commits five fouls on Nagbe, no card. We commit one and get a card. How does Alonso not get a card when he fouls a guy five times? Alonso is a tremendous player, and listen, if you can foul a guy like Nagbe five times and not get a card, what are you going to do? You’re going to keep fouling him. He’s smart.”

Indeed, Alonso needed to be booked for about three of those fouls. If nothing else, he needed a card for persistent infringement, the violation on which MLS officials inexplicably refuse to get with the doggone program.

But Marrufo was an equal opportunity poor referee on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

Timbers center back Pa-Modou Kah was lucky to remain on the field after some of his shenanigans, which included kneeing Eddie Johnson in the head as the Seattle attacker sat on the turf following a tough foul. Does anybody really believe that Kah, a veteran, professional athlete, is so clumsy that he couldn’t avoid belting a stationary object with his knee?

Here’s where this one needs to land: Surely there was a better choice than Marrufo to officiate the league’s showcase match of the entire freaking summer!

Clint Dempsey said it best at the final whistle, when he said the high-profile match was tough and “reckless” at times.

Good referees can wring the “reckless” out of a match with savvy management. Marrufo, with his reputation for “old school” MLS refereeing, where officials allow too much of the rough and tumble and stubbornly prefer not to issue cards that will help control a match, apparently cannot.

That is PRO (the continent’s professional refereeing overseer) and U.S. Soccer match assigners being asleep at the wheel.

Seriously, how do you not understand how many eyes were going to be on this one?

  1. Dylan Jenkins - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Reblogged this on Upper Deck Chatter.

  2. arbeck - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    The game was pretty physical on both sides, and Marrufo was just letting fouls go without whistles, and letting cardable fouls go without cards. Ozzie is a particularly physical player, but he’s very smart about how far he can push things before picking up a card. He correctly figured out he could get away with a lot more.

    Marrufo should have given out a couple of early cards and most likely the game would have settled down pretty quickly.

    • lunasceiling - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      I agree, arbeck…and I can’t agree with Porter about the lopsidedness (even through my Rose-City-colored glasses). Alonso earned a persistent infringement yellow that he didn’t get…but Kah really should have been sent off.

      It’s all too bad, as this would have been a much more entertaining game to watch if Marrufo had made it clear from the get-go that the kind of shenanigans we saw all game weren’t going to be acceptable. Calling a game too closely can suck the life out of it, but calling it too loosely risks ugly incidents and injuries.

      • perrinbar - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        Yeah, that was my feeling as a Sounders fan as well. Ozzie absolutely deserved a yellow. Not giving out cards for stuff is extremely annoying. After the Eddie getting kneed in the head incident, Marrufo didn’t even pull them aside and tell them to knock it off after there was a shoving match! How is that even passable refereeing? It really bugs me when refs don’t lay down the law early in a match to cut that crap off.

  3. Stephen Mangat - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    How was Alonso not carded!? He should’ve received a yellow for pulling at Nagbe from behind. Ten minutes or so later, he fouled Nagbe again and still no yellow.

    I understand Porter being upset, not b/c Portland was persecuted unfairly, but b/c Seattle wasn’t properly punished.

    • arbeck - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      No one was properly punished. There was only one card given out and that was for a tackle that could easily have been red. Maruffo just decided he wasn’t going to call anything. Players aren’t stupid, once they figured this out they kept pushing and pushing trying to get away with as much as they could.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Alonso got away with a lot, but his fouls were nothing compared to what Kah was doing. I would have given Ozzie the yellow after his second strong foul. That might have tightened things up a bit. But once Kah had his yellow, it didn’t slow him down at all. He was taking cheap shots all over the field, mixing it up with Dempsey and others any chance he could get. As a neutral observer, it took a lot away from what should have been a much more fun match. Still enjoyed it.

  5. mlsconvert88888 - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    16 fouls were called on Portland, 9 were called on Seattle, so whether it was deserved or not, the calls were lopsided in Seattle favor. There were a couple of times in the 2nd half where the whistle blew and I assumed it was going to be in favor of Portland, and instead it went to Seattle, but for me the biggest problem was Ozzie’s persistent infringement. It is smart of him to chop Nagbe down every time Nagbe beats him if he’s not going to be carded, but it’s lame to watch.

    • yoshou - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Foul count is rarely a good indicator of whether the game was lopsided or not.. Marrufo called a very lax game on both sides, but it didn’t look like he was biased towards either side. He was just letting a lot go and the players picked up on that and played accordingly.

  6. geojock - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    There are bad calls and bad reffing all of the world; however, I don’t understand how completely outmatched MLS officials look. Most have very little, if any control over the game. It looks like a boy among men. I see zero respect by the players as well. Once teams like SKC smell blood in the water, they play it to their full advantage.

    I don’t know what is so hard about an official telling the teams how it is going to be before the game starts then enforcing those points. What is so hard about telling a player, “the next one is yellow” then ACTUALLY giving his next foul a yellow??

    I do see some officials ‘talk-the-talk’ but rarely back it up. When they finally do, it’s too late and has the opposite effect.

  7. drewvt6 - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    It’s funny how SKC is used as an example of a team that smells blood in the water or fear from the ref. There’s far worse teams in the league. Teams who set out to ruin the aesthetic nature of the game. Until the league starts levying legitimate fines and building a consistent officiating approach it’ll go on, too.

  8. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:59 PM


    “That’s 12 fouls committed by Alonso on Nagbe and no cards…Ummm #SEAvPOR”

  9. talgrath - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Marrufo was just brutally terrible all around. Lots and lots of midfield fouls by both sides, players on both sides hobbled by bad tackles. Porter really has no room to complain though, Marrufo and his crew didn’t call a clear penalty kick early in the match where Dempsey, in the box, was tripped by not one but two different defenders who didn’t touch the ball. Honestly, how does Marrufo still have a job? How is the referee for arguably one of the biggest regular season games of the year on national TV?

  10. jumpingnots - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    I agre with Porter,this game was very bad officicated ,Seatle played with 12 players on the field so to say.Portland played the better game this time,but they still are in need of a faster (spits) fwd player who could create more goals. The defense played better this time. Good work guys !!!!

  11. jramsdale - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    Alonso plays the game he’s in. If the ref cools off the action he cools off. If he gets a yellow (sometimes deserved) he usually doesn’t get a second. Alonso deserved a yellow last night and were he given one his game would have adjusted. Kah deserved a second yellow last night (from what I hear from folks who saw it on TV arguably a straight red). I don’t think Porter has reason to complain when he should have been playing down a man.

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