Categorized | Commentary, MLS

A question for the MLS Disciplinary Committee

Posted on 14 November 2012 by Steve Long

Major League Soccer has just come out and admitted that referee Ricardo Salazar erred in not calling a foul on Houston’s Andre Hainault when he took down DC United’s Raphael Augusto late in the first half of the Eastern Conference Final first leg in Houston.

The failure to call the foul and eject Hainault for Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO) was entirely understandable from the position from which Salazar viewed the players and their exchange of arm contact. He couldn’t see that Hainault had trapped Augusto’s arm and pulled him down.

His own explanation confirms that he didn’t see it as a foul, but Professional Referee Organization General Manager Peter Walton, admitted on MLSSoccer.com that in his judgment it was indeed a foul and DOGSO.

Then MLS went on to state that the event was not reviewable by its disciplinary committee. That’s interesting, because it must be on the basis that the referee’s decision to let play continue on removes their ability to punish the action.

Let’s contrast that seemingly defensible position with their actions in regard to the second yellow card on Andy Najar in the semi-final opener against New York Red Bulls for which they suspended him for two additional games.

That punishment was given despite the fact that the referee, Jair Maruffo, specifically chose to call Najar’s offense only a cautionable dissent.

It seems to me that if the MLS Disciplinary Committee holds itself to a standard that the referee’s report is the defining document in such matters then they should feel similarly prevented from intervening in Najar’s case. After all, Marrufo was the aggrieved party when Najar threw the ball and determined at that time that it was not an abuse or assault on him.

While two similar preceding events involving Brek Shea (3 added games for kicking a ball at a referee) and Mike Magee (1 game for a mild throw in the direction of a referee) would seem to neatly bracket Najar’s punishment and provide adequate justification, we are still stuck with Maruffos’ reporting only dissent.

My quarrel is not with the Najar decision but with the failure to act on the Hainault situation. As it is, it seems that a non-decision by a referee because he did not see something (Hainault’s foul) may not be overruled while a specific description of an act that the referee did see (Najar’s throw) may be overruled.

Yet, disciplinary committees worldwide routinely punish “unseen” simulation although not reported or seen as such by a referee. How does this ex-post-facto calling of simulation differ from calling Hainault’s “simulating” fair play? So I ask MLS, did I miss something technical?

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