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The refereeing debate for Round 32 begins! Controversy in Friday’s Houston-Montreal match

Oct 5, 2013, 5:02 PM EDT

Bobby Boswell head shot

Big matches and big decisions from the men in the middle – they are happening every week with playoff races that are historically tight. Eight teams remain eligible for the playoffs in the East, and eight teams remain eligible in the West.

Round 32 has already given us a big choice. Referee Drew Fischer ruled “no call” on a huge, potential handball inside Houston’s penalty area during last night’s match in Houston.

Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell definitely raised his arm as Montreal’s Davy Arnaud directed a shot on goal from close range. And the ball definitely struck Boswell in the arm (in a match the Dynamo would eventually close out, 1-0).

But where was his arm relative to his body? And there’s the rub. If it’s tucked inside, in more or less a “natural” position, or if it appears the ball would have struck a defending player somewhere else if his arm wasn’t in the way, most referees will play it conservatively and not blow the whistle.

In this case … it’s pretty iffy.

Or not. Not to Arnaud at the Impact, that is. Montreal trailed at the time, 1-0, and was pressing Houston for the equalizer.

It was a tough call for Fischer. There’s probably enough there to whistle handball, since Boswell did, in fact, raise his arm. (That is, it didn’t just strike his arm; he put his arm in a different position.)

It probably was a handball – but it’s far from the worst call we’ll see this weekend. You can decide for yourself here:


  1. jrocknstuff - Oct 5, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    I’ve seen at least 4 worse calls (non-calls rather) in this Barcelona/Valladolid game alone. After the past few weeks I’m starting to think the Spanish refs are 10 times worse than the MLS refs

  2. term3186 - Oct 5, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Boswell’s arm is extended a bit as he jumps, but he pulls it back into his body before the ball makes contact. Where else should his arm be? (where else CAN it be?) It isn’t like he can cut it off. If it doesn’t hit his arm, it hits him in the upper ribcage/shoulder or the face. With the referee right on the spot, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on the call.

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