Where do you start after that Saturday shitshow? Weather? Referee? TFC? All were bad in varying degrees and led to what has to have been one of the worst TFC experiences at BMO field for the rapidly dwindling home support in the short seven year history of the club. We sing about the “highs and lows” every week, but maybe we should actually start singing about the “lows and lowers” because there are not that many highs to go around.

Lets get the weather and TFC out of the way first as I want to concentrate on the “referee” for much of this blog entry.

Its been a long hard season with little nothing to show for it. Not even mother nature seems to co-operate these days. Little wonder then that with light rain forecast all day until 4pm, heavier rain from 4-6pm (game time – go figure!) and then scattered clouds afterwards, that the lowest ever crowd for an MLS match at BMO showed up to watch TFC battle it out with KC. Full credit to the “announced” figure of 12627 who did turn up and I am not going to criticise those who didn’t. I almost didn’t bother myself. What with listening to and watching real football in the morning, a few things I had to get done around midday, and quite frankly a lack of enthusiasm given the weather and that there was nothing to play for,  I only decided to brave the elements at about 2:30 and rather than make a day of it, drive to the game and straight home afterwards. The 2/3 empty Green P parking lot at Liberty Village was one of the first signs of things to come. At 3:20pm you should not be able to get a spot here when the game kicks off at 4PM … but I had several completely empty rows to choose from ….. and en-route to the game through the GO station, even the scalpers weren’t bothering. There were one or two, but they looked resigned to not selling their tickets and not really trying as no-one was biting.

The record low crowd for this game may also be a barometer for the season …. In March we set our highest crowd for a home game in MLS with 25991 attending the Rogers Centre game against this same Kansas team. Most of us came away from that game thinking that perhaps we could achieve “averageness” this season. Our new coach and GM had written the season off and told us not to expect anything but the performance in that game showed promise.  Fast forward 14 further home games and along with the GM, 5 of the starting 11 from that day are gone, with another 2 on the bench and 1 injured . Only Bendik, Morgan, & Hall remain from the starting lineup that took to the pitch in Rogers Centre and our crowd is less than half of the early season high.

TFC were not terrible on Saturday, but they were also not good. It was what I would class as a typical end of season, nothing to play for game, and I have seen a few of those in my time in Scotland due to not supporting one of the Old Firm …. and with it taking place in terrible conditions, that made it even worse. TFC were last to every ball, did not seem committed in the tackle, and generally were second best all around.  The two goals we let in were stupid. For the first of his two goals, Sapong was completely unmarked when he got on the end of a Dwyer header across the box, and again in the second half he was allowed acres of room to get on the end of another cross, this time from Chance Myers. Our defence could have and should have cleared both of these chances. Credit to Darel Russell for a well taken goal though, this time from a defensive error by KC. Aurelien Collin and Jimmy Nielsen had a bit of a mix-up which allowed Alvaro Rey to get the ball, he laid it off to Russell and he sent a low “daisycutter” beyond Nielsen and into the net. Our one bright spot of the day.

MLS wants to be taken seriously as a ‘world class’ league but two things about this match show they will struggle to get beyond the bush league status that all but the most fervent MLS watchers regard them as right now …

The first is the ridiculous suspension handed down to Jonathan Osorio. The suspension itself is not the ridiculous part, it is the timing. In last week’s game he kicked the ball against a prone Kisuke Kimura’s head. The video replay shows he did it and immediately raised his arms in apology. You could argue one way or the other about intention when you view that at normal speed or frame-by-frame but that is not the point. Bottom line is that it was a stupid thing to do, and a suspension is probably warranted (in my opinion), but you do that on Monday morning or maybe Tuesday when you view the tape, you do not wait until late on Friday less than 24 hours before a Saturday game before doing so. That throws all the pre-planning and earlier training and tactics for the game into disarray. If you do wait until Friday to hand down the punishment, then most proper leagues would make it start after the next game (ie. banned for DC and Philly games). 

The second – and more worrysome – aspect of MLS continued ‘bush leaguery’ is the referees. We have all talked about bad referees over the years – fans, players, and even managers have all had their say – but the idiot in charge of this match takes the award for all time worst referee I have seen at BMO or elsewhere and just for clarity, elsewhere extends to several countries as well as levels well above and well below MLS’ current level. World Class? in your dreams MLS !!!!

This ref has officiated 21 MLS games this season. He has issued 68 yellows, 3 second yellows, and 2 straight reds. Both straight reds were issued in matches involving SKC, and both were to opposition players.  Last year he reffed 12 games and issued 41 yellows and 1 straight red. Look around Google with searches for his “poor” games and you will see he has history with many clubs, most notably Salt Lake. You can add TFC to this mix now too.

He red-carded Steven Caldwell for a studs high challenge 4 minutes before time. I have not seen the replay of this yet so will not argue either way other than to say that as it happened right in front of the SKC dugout, if it were that bad you would expect a bench-clearing brawl, yet there was none! However, where I will argue is 3 major calls that he ignored, and countless other decisions that he gave or didn’t give.

The first is the elbow to Alvaro Rey from Aurellien Collin before half-time. The assistant referee flagged this immediately and after consultation with him, Chapman awarded a free-kick to TFC on the edge of the box but decided on no booking (hopeful TFC supporters would argue inside the box, but thats a different discussion). Collin had already been booked and should have received at minimum a second yellow for this if not a straight red.  In a post-game interview, coach Ryan Nelsen indicated he had asked the ref about this blown call and got the response that it was an elbow to the face but not a reckless one…. still trying to work the logic of that one out. It is or it is not an elbow to the face, if it is, its a red card. simple. 

The second was Peterson Joseph’s kick on Convey inside the penalty area in 73 minutes. Its mentioned in a number of match reports and if we are generous (although I dont see why we should be) you could argue that the call could go either way. Once again though, Chapman bottled it, decided on no foul and no penalty and SKC got off the hook. 

The final blown call – and the worst of the bunch – is Collin’s cynical shove on Braun a few minutes later. He should already have been off the park before half-time, and after cynically plowing into Braun in the box who was lining up a header (that he would probably have missed, but that’s irrelevant) he should have had his second or possibly third red card of the day and TFC should have had a penalty for the second time in just a few minutes! This call was so obvious to absolutely everyone in the ground that what followed was a further two ejections from the sidelines. First Fran O’Leary was sent packing, and then Ryan Nelsen, apparently both ejections were for questioning the non-decision from the incompetent whistler in the middle.

Even the Guardian newspaper touches on this in its “Talking Sport” blog today as does NBC sports and other news organisations.

Alas, these days of blown calls or clumsily managed decisions that affect outcomes (and potentially coaching careers) may be cynically referred to in some MLS circles as a “Saturday”.

Toronto was Saturday’s most battered victim. While the Reds are going nowhere this year under Ryan Nelsen – whose job seems increasingly tenuous given high-level management comings and goings in the organization – Saturday’s timid performance by Allen Chapman can still influence playoff positioning with Kansas City and its fellow Eastern Conference leaders.

Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin had already been booked when he put an elbow into Alvaro Rey’s face near the penalty area just before halftime. Chapman called a foul but demurred otherwise on what was probably worthy of a second, game-changing yellow. Collin, a highly unstable sort, has long lost much benefit of the doubt.

Later, Chapman rejected Toronto’s penalty appeal when Kansas City’s Peterson Joseph kicked Bobby Convey (remember him?) about 17 yards out. We’ll generously call that one 50-50. But minutes later there was nothing “50-50” about it as Collin plowed into Justin Braun, never even looking for the ball as the TFC striker lined up a header inside the six-yard box. So egregious was this refereeing blunder, no fewer than two Toronto coaches (including Nelsen) were soon dismissed for their howling protests in KC’s 2-1 road win.

So MLS, your desire to raise your stock in world football sees you still in the position you were a long time ago … a laughing stock. 

The quality of MLS play has increased, the support for many teams is excellent, the stadiums are getting better with each new one that is built, and the ingredients to reach that plateau of being called ‘world class’ are certainly there, but until the quality of MLS refereeing is addressed its all smoke and mirrors. If you cannot provide consistent and accurate officiating then everything else is irrelevant.   Make a start by demoting or kicking out this idiot from Saturday!

When looking for a few links for this post, mostly to do with the ref, I came across an interesting article on SB Nation. Not the TFC site, but the RSL one. It was linked to a post about Chapman but is really in response to another refereeing shitshow they endured (we are not alone TFC fans). Designated Referees? There’s an idea !: RSL SOAPBOX

Gallery for this game: HERE

1 comments

  1. Excellent rant and post! Let’s hope the GODS at MLS head office read this and
    ensure that drastic changes are made for the 2014 season so that these types of injurious referee calls to the teams are not repeated again.

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