After a full couple of days of what I would call US successes (Mark Geiger and team, and the USMNT) I still believe that our US refereeing team is still very much in the tournament.
While there has been some criticism (First time criticizing a referee eh Keshi? That's believable.) of Mark and teams' performance during the FRA v. NGA match, largely surrounding the caution Mark issued ... as opposed to a send off as many would have liked ... I think the call was perfect.
"But Pete!", folks are asking me, "how can that be given the video we saw." ... and the still immediately below?
|Image courtesy of ESPN|
My answer is three fold.
- Matuidi was not "headhunting" or with any malice, or more appropriately, overly carless, reckless, or in a disproportionately forceful way went after Onazi that would merit a send off for Serious Foul Play. It was a foul, clearly. It was a caution, certainly. No more. Matuidi was genuinely remorseful after the tackle ... and not a "I just got caught" remorse. It was a real, "crap that was not what I intended" remorse. (Hold those "that does not matter" thoughts)
- Mark was Johnny on the Spot and was clear about the caution. It was not a "lets wait and see." He booked him instantly ... and all accepted the decision inside the field.
- A send off I believe would have likely ruined a fabulous match. It would have taken a match almost perfectly in balance (see stats below) and would have required 35'+ of 10 v. 11 play, completely disrupting the nice flow this match had to it.
|Image courtesy of Google|
This one comes down to the very real issue faced by referees at the World Cup (in particular). Balance is king. FIFA wants to see every team afforded every opportunity to decide matches on their own without undue interference from the referee.
Think about some of the "soft" penalties we saw earlier in the tournament and late penalty calls that resulted in dramatic finishes (I'm not blaming referees for bad behavior on a players part) ... it threw these matches out of "balance" and we did not see these referees or ARs again.
Let's go back to ... if they did it, the player should pay for it ...
Well, I hate to say this, but not at this level, or even at a high level professional match. Lets face it folks, stars are protected and they should be ... also frankly ... at this level it is more about getting a fair shake than what the laws say.
It's the biggest of the big boy games and if you look at the video or watched the match, the players accepted the decision and got on with it. If they did not, there would have been much more for Mark to deal with.
So based on this (some may ask) if the score was already 2-0, would this have been a send off?
My answer is that I'd be willing to bet it would have.
On the surface this may seem dramatically unjust, and even bias to a degree that players who commit wrong acts may get to stay for virtue of the situation.
It is however exactly what I am saying. Not only do different matches (as a whole) but also different points in a match require different management.
For me, at that time, in that match, with those teams in that tournament, a caution was Mark's only real option to keep that match where it was. With that caution, he maintained balance ... which is ultimately what referees at that level are judged for.
Short of a capricious decision by FIFA, I believe we will see Mark and team one more time this World Cup. I don't think it will be the final (I think this goes to Irmatov) and honestly the quarter finals based on the team stack up may be unlikely. (FRA-GER, no as GER was in USA group and they just did FRA; BRA-COL, most likely but a longshot with the host nation, likely a UEFA referee; ARG-BEL, no as BEL eliminated the US; NED-CRC, no as CRC is in CONCACAF)
A semi-final would be a dream assignment and a platinum star for the US team.
In any case, I believe the whole team is in the running with their excellent work. While we may not see them again ... Mark at 39 is ripe for the next World Cup in 2018 with some amazing experience under his belt.
We'll see ... but be assured I am pulling for our remaining US team.