June 17, 2006

Blood - Red (US vs. Italy)

I think soccer fans will be talking about this game for years to come. An 9-man USA team outplayed a 10-man Italy team to hold on to a 1-1 draw. (I was right by the way in my last article with the score prediction.) There was much red seen in this match - from McBride's face to Mastroeni's studs-up tackle.

I felt the first red card, given to an Italian, was definitely warranted. There is no question. As a referree, I felt the second red card was also appropriate. I'm sorry if you had to listen to Marcelo Balboa rant on-and-on about how the referree was ruining the match. I cannot believe that a soccer player with the experience of Balboa would have been such an idiot. As I said, I am a referree. We are told to throw a red when a foul is harsh; and/or dangerous; and/or with studs exposed. Mastroeni made a few mistakes. The first mistake: Never foul that roughly when a red card has just been issued. Secondly, if studs are out, do not straighten your leg when going through the tackle. Thirdly, do not be late, or Get the ball! From a fan's perspective, a red card seems rediculous. However, I cannot see the referree arm of FIFA taking action against the referree of today's match for that call.

As far as Pope's second yellow/subsequent red, I felt and said that Arena should have taken out Pope. I realize that would have eliminated some athleticism in our attack, but I think a red card does even more damage. I wish Arena's thinking would have been along this line: "Man, two reds have already been issued. Eddie (Pope) has been close once already to picking up that second yellow. Maybe I should take him out." Unfortunately, that did not happen. I cannot be certain, but having a 10-on-10 match may have resulted in a win for us today.

For the record, Balboa's statement concerning the inconsistency in the referree's calling today from 1st half to the end of the 2nd was absolutely absurd. For a referree, these are the priorities:
  1. Safety (big in FIFA)
  2. Fair Play (also big)
  3. Game control*** and law enforcement (not police...)

Sometimes in controlling a game, cards must be given out early. The principle is: "Better an early yellow than a late red." An early yellow in a tightly called match is much better than having to throw a red in an out-of-control match. I thought the referree had constant control today.

Maybe what I hate the most is the attitude of the American players. It seems like they all echoed an anti-referree sentiment after the match. I think this shows their immaturity as professionals. I thought for sure, especially with veterans like Pope and Mastroeni, that they would not have acted like 20-year olds. (which happens to be my age)

What we need to advance to the Round of 16:

- A win against a tough Ghana side

- An Italian win against an angry Czech side

- Multiple goals for Us in the win against Ghana.

Stay tuned! Thursday, 9:55 a.m. EST. The US/Ghana game and the Czech/Italy game will be aired simultaneously on ESPN and ESPN2, respectively.

Suggested line-up:

GK: Keller

D: Bocanegra, Gooch, Cherundolo

MF: O'Brien (D-Mid), Beasley(LWM), Donovan(LCM), Reyna(RCM), Dempsey (RWM)

F: Eddie Johnson, McBride