MLS refs need to stop hack-a-Freddie/Fredy tactics

Posted on 27 July 2009 by Kyle Alm

Freddie Ljungberg is fourth in MLS in fouls suffered with 38 fouls suffered in 14 matches. Fredy Montero has the suffered the second highest number of total fouls in Major League Soccer, with 42 in 16 matches. Despite the high number of calls the Swede does get, the Sounders captain is known to voice his opinion in the referee’s ear every match about the calls that don’t go his way.

The general strategy against the Sounders seems to be to hack at Montero and Ljungberg persistently and expect that the referee can’t or won’t make every call.

Ljungberg may be deserving of more calls. Like the Dynamo, Chicago Fire put a lot of physical pressure on the Sounders early. There were some early retaliatory fouls and a lot of playing through the backs of players that wasn’t called. The physical play continued to escalate throughout the match and most of it was allowed.

I disagree with people who say that calling too many fouls slow the match down. I tend to place the blame on the fouls themselves. Fouls need to be called and if correct call is made consistently fouling should decline. The beautiful simplicity of the match is that if you make an attempt to play the ball you are most likely in the clear. If you attempt to play the player, it’s a foul. Refs need to call fouls and give cards before players begin to retaliate against each other.

These are professional players who have played their entire lives and they know when they get fouled, and they have a pretty good idea of when a play is malicious, honest, or ‘professional.’

The dive is another matter. There is altogether too much diving in soccer at every level and it needs to stop. Giving a yellow card is appropriate punishment.

Freddie Ljungberg went mad after being called for a dive just outside of the Chicago Fire’s penalty area. He could not believe it. Upon the replay it was clear that Ljungberg was barely impeded outside of the box and tried to play the referee for another call. The Swede received his second yellow for petulance. The Sounders relinquished their man advantage over the Fire merely five minutes after John Thorrington was sent off for his second yellow.

Sigi Schmid later said that he knew it was coming as soon as Thorrington was sent off.

Referees really get tired of complaining. Ljungberg lost his composure completely in a match where he had been hacked at persistently. A critical advantage for a crucial three points would have leveled Seattle and first place Houston on the table were lost on Ljungberg’s outburst.

But what does it take to get called for a dive? Is it persistence? With the advantage of hindsight the referee should have let it go as a no-call as a mere embellishment. There were easily three other instances of Fire players going to the turf as easily as Ljungberg had. It was certainly embellished, I won’t say that it was a dive, but Ljungberg went to turf easily, but there were more incriminating instances of diving than that play. You need only mention the name ‘Blanco.’

The Sounders FC and their fans should expect more from the designated player than that. Ljungberg needed to keep his cool and try and win his club three points especially since he would be missing the next match because of his accumulated yellow cards now totaled five.

Aside from the shear spectacle of the Brougham End’s and their protest of Qwest Field Security, the amount of cards handed out, near misses and drama of a match with another league leader, it was quite a memorable nil-nil draw. The posts were lucky to be standing by the end of that match. After both players had been sent off there was still plenty of action. Montero nearly had the winner and a share the league’s goal lead with a strike that rocketed past Jon Busch and of the corner of the frame in the 80th minute. And a similar response from the Fire’s Prideaux who responded with a header off that bounced back into play off of Kasey Keller’s frame.

Not to mention Jacqua’s inability to finish a goal. He had no less than three wonderful opportunities to score point blank that all went begging.

Instead all anyone wants to talk about is why one situation gets called and not the other. The true problem isn’t one of diving but with the consistency of officiating in MLS. If one gets called and similar situation gets let go it’s still in the best interest of players to foul. Officiating has let the last couple of matches get out of hand because of the tactics employed. There needs to be more calls and earlier cautions (I hate seeing referee’s give continual warnings, a caution is a warning) before retaliation between players. Otherwise they might as well let the players settle the match themselves without the referees.

If the MLS wants to attract players of quality we need to have a league that is quality. We need officiating that is consistent. The players MLS wants to bring over, that will attract more fans and more advertising revenue, won’t sign on to be the league’s tackling dummy. Just like the fans don’t want to see a million dollar dive and rolling around on the turf until a whistle gets blown.

6 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Says:

    I think the physical "hack-a-Fred" tactics used to neutralize the SSFC's biggest threat and playmaker started with the LA game in May, and seems to have been adopted by a number of teams to disrupt Seattles more direct passing game where most of the moves run through the middle of the field and Ljungberg.

    Add Ljungberg's very clear frustration with what's often rather questionable refereeing and I can see why one of the cleaner players in the league has the number of yellow cards he does.

  2. Kyle Alm Says:

    What was interesting was waiting to see who got fouled after they went off.

    No one. Could have been because of the two previous red cards.

    Sounders next most fouled player has — less fouls. It's a pretty obvious strategy.

    There isn't another team with two players who have suffered more that 30 fouls in the league. Columbus will get there after their next match.

  3. Kyle Alm Says:

    Sorry that should say Jacqua and Alonso follow with 26 and 20 fouls suffered.

  4. Kyle Alm Says:

    AND we have committed 217 fouls, suffered 255 AND are currently at the bottom of the leauge when it comes to their idea of "fair play."

  5. soccer goals Says:

    MLS version of The hack a shaq defense.

  6. Kyle Alm Says:

    Except that the MLS doesn't award the call more often than not. Shaq used to get a lot of phantom calls.

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