It’s been a long bye week for Sporting Kansas City, and many of our readers have chimed in about the officiating in Sporting KC’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids last Saturday night.
So, let’s dive in.
As subjective as soccer is when it comes to refereeing, there are plays and sequences officials must get right at any level.
These occur when the officials are in position to make a call that, if not whistled back, could change the course of a match.
In other words, exactly what happened last Saturday night in Commerce City, Colo., when the Rapids struck even in the 53rd minute — minus the all-important whistle.
Referee Jorge Gonzalez and his assistant on the near sideline were in perfect position to blow the whistle on two, clear Rapids fouls. Instead, Gonzalez didn’t blow his whistle and his assistant kept the flag down.
Before rewinding the play and breaking it down, it’s important to note that Sporting KC wasn’t cheated out of three points. Despite what manager Peter Vermes believes — and why wouldn’t he as manager and technical director? — Sporting KC played well enough to squeak out a draw at best. Colorado surprised its opponent by coming out on the front foot and sticking to it as Sporting KC desperately searched for an offensive answer with Benny Feilhaber dropping back into defensive midfielder.
Anyhow, here’s how it happened:
1. RIP Mikey Lopez
Oh yes, the ol’ barge-in-shoulder-check-tackle. Drew Moor’s intentions were to intercept the ball, except he runs over Mikey Lopez in the process.
How this isn’t called back is beyond me. Gonzalez is at least 10 yards from the play but has a sightline, and his assistant points to Lopez as if to say that didn’t warrant a foul.
Out of the entire sequence, this is the most mindboggling.
2. Sinovic shoved off the ball
In truth, an MLS fullback shouldn’t get shoved off the ball like Seth Sinovic was here, but, hey, he is coming off a three-month layoff.
Vicente Sánchez, 35, has his way with Sinovic by using both his hands to create space. The laws of the game state that an official may award a direct free kick to an opponent if a player pushes the opponent with excessive force or in a manner that appears careless or reckless. While neither applies here, Sánchez does gain an advantage by creating space and a path for a free run into the box.
Also noteworthy, Lopez makes an excellent recovery run into the box after getting taken down (see above). Expecting him to stop the Rapids build-up, however, is wishful thinking.
3. Deflected ball, even game
Several people on Twitter seem to fault Sporting KC for the shot leading to the goal. I disagree; sometimes a player hits a quality shot and, in this case, gets the benefit of a deflection.
Maynor Figueroa was just as surprised to see the ball at his feet as Sporting KC. He received the pass near the far edge of the 18-yard box, away from the cluster of players in the middle of the box, took a slight touch and fired.
Graham Zusi did his best to cut off the shooting lane, and Sporting KC actually rotated well on the cross to Figueroa. The Rapids fullback simply struck the ball well enough to take a lucky glance off Zusi en route to the back of the net.
Nothing Zusi, Tim Melia or Sporting KC’s backline could do.
Extra Time: But what about the handball?
Indeed, Vermes was less upset after the game about the two fouls mentioned above than he was the “handball” on Sánchez leading up to the first foul.
But this echoes back to the handball called on Panama in this summer’s Gold Cup semifinal match against Mexico. The outrage was due to the fact that the defender fell on top of the ball, putting his arms out to break his fall. Because of that, many believed there shouldn’t have been a call made.
There’s not much different from that than in the case of Sánchez on Saturday night. Sinovic causes him to stumble and reach out to break his fall, which led to his hand making contact with the ball.
Then again, try telling that to Vermes, who had a few reasons to be upset after the 2-1 defeat.