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Did MLS “Points of Emphasis” influence call in TFC loss?

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Toronto FC created very little in its 1-0 loss to FC Dallas Wednesday. Really, it was a match bereft of creativity.

The fact that a smattering of people attended the game in the Dallas suburbs only added to the non-event feel of the game. A massive storm before the game kept people away.

But, Thursday morning, no TFC fan will talk about how the Reds did little to trouble FC Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman, No one will discuss coach Aron Winter’s puzzling decision to yank Ecuadorean spark plug and reigning MLS player of the week Joao Plata off in the 49th minute in favour of Javier Martina, whose most notable contribution was getting a yellow card for a dive. (To be fair, replays indicated that Martina looked to have legitimately stumbled over the legs of sliding FCD defender Jackson Goncalves.)

No, the talk will be about the awarding of a penalty kick late in the first half that gave FCD three points out of a game that deserved to be an agonizingly dull 0-0 draw.

With time ticking down in the first half, a long free kick was lobbed into a giant scrum of players in the penalty area. Several went to ground. But, referee Yader Reyes signalled for a penalty kick, singling out TFC defender Adrian Cann for having a hold of George John. Daniel Hernandez, who took the initial free kick, buried the penalty.

The TFC bench was so irate, and complained so vociferously, that assistant Bob de Klerk was sent off.

“It’s always difficult because every game it looks like it’s not the players on the pitch that are playing,” said Winter after the game. “It is more of a referee show now. I’m upset because every week it’s something different with a referee. It makes me upset because we are improving every game. We’re playing well, but with those things you can never win the game. Every week it gets worse.”

It’s a call that likely would not have been made last season. But, remember that the shirt tugging and holding that’s become commonplace in the penalty area is one of the “points of emphasis” that MLS stressed for its referees at the beginning of the season. The league had told referees that it expected them to err on the side of the strikers if they saw clutching and grabbing in the box.

So, in cases where they see holding on both sides, instead of letting it go, refs are being told to be willing to point to the spots.

Remember that UEFA tried the same thing in 2008. Before Euro 2008, it issued a mandate to its refs to clamp down on holding in the penalty area. Games between Italy and Romania, and Austria and Poland, were decided by penalties given on holding in the box.

But, this is a guarantee; it won’t be the last MLS game we see this season decided on a borderline call. Just as in baseball, the tie goes to the runner, MLS has told its refs that they are to err on the side of the striker.

And that’s what Reyes did.

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2 Comments

  1. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    May 17, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Referees in MLS are as bad as they come..not excusing the level of play, but their inconsistency makes one question their licensing….I blame the quality of and amount of marginal players, but what they miss has become laughable…..Winter must be thinking ..”How can I coach from Amsterdam…Skype?”

  2. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    May 17, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Dallas must be one of the clubs heavily subsidized by the MLS ownership..they have never drawn well……storms or not…but they have a good MLS side…..TFC’s characterisitc passive, unimaginative play on the road continues..it speaks of a legacy of underachieving that appears to remain unmovable….must be paying Winter a lot to put up with this squads inept and inconsistent play…….

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