Friday, September 30, 2011

Bruce Arena speaks truth to power

Indulge me for a minute. Bruce Arena took some time earlier this week to wax poetic on the state of officiating in CONCACAF. Not just in the Champions League but in general, national team included. If anybody has a minute of my time to voice his opinions on the region's officiating miscues, it is Arena. So what exactly are these statements? We'll break them down in pieces, which came in advance of LA's 2-1 stoppage time win (wha????) over Morelia. No coincidence there.
“It’s bad officiating, there’s no two ways about it,” Arena said. “I saw this in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The officiating is bad.”
“There are too many phantom calls in this competition," Arena said. "It hasn’t been good. I don’t know how else you can explain it, but it hasn’t been good. It is all part of it, although I don’t believe it should be; but it is CONCACAF and you experience that. If you don’t realize it’s coming then you’re really going to be surprised. It’s something we told our team at the beginning of the tournament, that the officiating was going to be bad. Then the other part of it, the assignments have been incredible – that they assign a Honduran and a Mexican crew in a group where we have a Honduran and a Mexican team. That’s Assignment 101 that they failed on miserably. That kind of stuff they’ve got to get right.”
Whether or not this is a necessary response to away matches in the region is one question. The assignments were a miserable failure on a base level, but in the end that comes down to how much confidence you have in impartiality. I have my opinions. In this country, refs don't play favorites. If FCD stumbles and George John collides with a free breakaway, that call is automatic. Regardless of the official, especially considering that US-born officials are rare in these competitions. But when you import the situation to central Mexico, forget it.

LA had reason to cheer this week. After all, this happened and Juninho got all awesome on us.

This was not an unexpected result. LA would be heavy underdogs in Mexico, and likewise for Morelia in the States. Arena would have been as surprised as the rest of us had the Galaxy dropped points. But the real intrigue came cross-continent as FC Dallas fell to a heavy touch against previously hapless Tauro.

Simply put, this game didn't make any sense. And it made Arena look like a prophetic genius. Ruben Luna drew FCD's first goal on a phantom call that made no impact on the play itself, arguably the most baffling call you'll ever witness at the 40 second mark. The red on Jair Bentiez was hilarious in its failure to accurately depict the occurrence. Benitez literally grazed his man, maybe even failing to touch him entirely. It was dealt with by the ref that CONCACAF vets know affectionately as ChiquiVampire, the man who sports a straight Vamp hairdo and who occasionally crashes area matches with miserable calls. He busted in a final time in the 90th, handing Fabian Castillo a red for little more than breathing on his attacker. The game was over by that time, but the notion that Castillo was doing anything more than casting a wayward glance at the man on the touchline is an idea fit better for the tabloids.

Arena, despite LA's stoppage-time success this week, has a legitimate gripe. CONCACAF officiating is blatantly reckless at best, overwhelmingly biased at worst. If I had a word to describe it, it would be reactionary. The refs are largely Central American and Mexican, and they are reticent to hand cautions and bans to such players at home and far too neutral away to balance it out. At this point, the matter has become accepted Stateside. As an MLS team traveling abroad, expect chippy play, spare attention and missed calls. At home, expect a mostly evenly called match. Is it fair? No. Arena can speak to that. I'm optimistic that as MLS squads become more aggressive in this competition, the refereeing will even itself out. Till then? Ride the wave, guys. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

- Seattle backs into the knockout stage
- The Rapids will not die ever; 3-1 winners over Metapan to keep hope alive
- Aron Winter is an idiot for taking off Koevermans... I said it

- Will Parchman


SPA2TACU5 said...

Those were some hilarious calls.

And the assignments are bs too. Hon and Mex refs in a group with a Hon and a Mex team... come onnnnn.

Will Parchman said...

AHA, finally found The Vampire. Marco Rodriguez, terror is thy name.