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Are there any good MLS referees in MLS? Any?
It is a question worth asking after another weekend of questionable decisions and matches decided by the incorrect or missed calls of the men whose jobs it is to get calls right.
Take Sunday's showdown between Chicago and Columbus. The Fire led 2-1 and looked like a good bet to secure a win and move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference. At least before referee Mark Geiger whistled for a phantom penalty call against the Fire (You can see the play here at the 4.00 mark).
That call came two days after referee Hilario Grajeda missed a clear penalty in the New York Red Bulls 1-1 tie vs. New England. After the match, Grajeda admitted to being screened on the play, but that doesn't explain why the match linesman didn't see the penalty and notify Grajeda.
Instead, it was another blown call and a point for the Revolution. New England isn't likely to feel bad for New York consider what happened to the Revs two matches earlier, when MVP candidate Shalrie Joseph was issued a highly-questionable red card just 23 minutes into a game vs. Kansas City. That call, made by referee Jasen Anno, left the Revs a man down in a match it eventually lost 4-2. A week later, without Joseph's dominant presence in midfield, New England lost to Chivas USA, 2-0.
Earlier in the year, I wrote an ESPN piece on officiating, with several coaches telling me that the refs were actually doing better than in year's past, with some of the early-season questionable calls being blamed on new mandates and emphasis on certain calls from U.S. Soccer. In the months since, MLS coaches have begun speaking out more and more about bad calls and game-changing referee mistakes, which shouldn't be a surprise since these calls could wind up costing some coaches their jobs at season's end.
Mistakes are a part of the game, and referees can't be expected to be perfect, but the number of major calls, and late-game calls, leaves you wondering whether some referees are trying too hard to show they can make the tough call, even if sometimes they wind up making the wrong call.
Whether it is still referees over-emphasizing certain plays they have been told to watch more closely, or simply a case of inexperienced referees enduring growing pains, MLS referees are having an awful year and there don't appear to be any signs that things are improving.
What did you think of some of the weekend's more controversial officiating calls? Think Wilman Conde was guilty of a penalty vs. Columbus? Have you accepted that bad referees are just something MLS fans have to accept? Think MLS referees are better than they're given credit for being?
Share your thoughts below.