17 September 2006

First Impressions - Chicago Fire 1 : 0 DC United

Folks, it is getting ugly out there. For a few weeks, I was thinking that the issue that Nowak had with the officiating was not in the big calls, but the way that DC wasn't getting the small calls, like the clutching and grabbing and kicking at the ankles. I put that theory to the test watching the Revs game, and didn't see that it held out, so I didn't write about it. I'm glad I didn't, since while I can't say that DC lost this game because of the referee, I know that DC never was given a good chance to win because of it.

What is most frusturating is that DC was showing signs of some good play, developing some good passes and creating nice offensive opportunities. But with ridiculous officiating early in the game, including the early caution to Moreno, the blatant penalty that was not awarded, and the toleration of the thuggery of CJ Brown, it was clear the deck was stacked.

The second half was a mockery of a game, with Terry Vaghn resembling nothing more than an insecure substitute teacher, sending kids to the principle office willy-nilly because he might have heard someone whistle every time he turned his back. The red on Gros was a ridiculous call. The first yellow on Namoff is the kind of thing that should make Brooks McCormick change his name to Alan Smithee. Utterly ridiculous. I remember a boxing match on ESPN that ended with Teddy Atlas yelling at the ref "He should be pistol whipped for this match." I'm not saying that's the right thing, but it does reflect how mad I was about this incompetence with a whistle and book.

It upsets me, because with a competently reffed game, DC might have been able to establish someting. But they were never given a chance.


At 18 September, 2006 10:03, Anonymous Joanna said...

I have to disagree, mostly because I think blaming the ref for a loss is 100 million times lamer than openly drooling over Bobby Boswell.

As for the details, some of it you're right on. The hacking, absolutely. Namoff's first caution, NOBODY saw handling except apparently Vaughn. But seriously, Gros's sendoff? If one of theirs stomps on the ankle of one of our players, we'd be screaming for blood, and rightly so. You just can't do that.

And at the end of the day, even if the ref sucks, we have to learn to play through that. MLS isn't going to look at the tape and go "oh well the ref robbed you on this and that was a stupid caution so here, have a point." Our guys have the responsibility to deal with what is thrown at them. They are not stepping up. My housemate's three-year-old started cheering for Chicago when the game came back from rain delay. I rebuked her for this of course, but at the same time, shit, you have to wonder if maybe she's on to something.

At 18 September, 2006 10:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why no comment on the no-call for Chicago, shortly after the no call you complain about?
Granted, the CJ Brown was a bad decision on the refs part, but we have had our share. Be realistic.
We (Chicago) own DC, plain and simple.
Accept this fact, and you'll be ok.
Otherwise, not a bad blog, mate!


At 18 September, 2006 11:34, Anonymous bdr said...

I do have this question for MLS: in a key game between the top two teams in the conference with a history - a recent history - of clipping and spitting and chipping and yapping - why would you assign the worse referee in the league to that game? Kennedy wasn't available? Even freaking Abby Okalaja wasn't available?

Now, if MLS assigned Vaughn because they think he's the best ref, jeebus.

Which isn't the reason for the result. Didn't help, but...

At 18 September, 2006 11:47, Anonymous SEKim said...

Yeah, I completely agree with Joanna. At the end of the day the guys have to over come all obstacles on the field (including a jackass ref) and put the ball in the back of the net. And it's one thing if people here or on www.bigsoccer.com want to piss and moan about reffing but hearing from the players and Nowak just seem like weak excuses for them not doing their job. If I may use Lonnie Hovis' famous line-"Stop Sucking!"

At 18 September, 2006 12:04, Anonymous Harvey said...

The ref has just as much influence on the game as ANY player or coach on the field. To think otherwise is (in my opinion) foolish. They can absolutely sway a game one way or another. For those who haven't played there is nothing more frustrating than being on the receiving end of a foul not called and then when you do the same thing being called on it.
Having said that.... The reason that the Fire won is they have DC figured out. And they execute their plan better than anybody else in the league against us.

The Fire clutch, grab, foul, pressure, annoy, and harrass DC expecially in the midfield. They really pressure between their 18 and midfield, frequently double and triple teaming the guy with the ball and forcing him to pass backwards.

They hold on and KNOW, just KNOW, that eventually DC will give up a goal on the other end. And once the Fire get that 1-0 lead, the game is over.

At 18 September, 2006 12:25, Blogger D said...

Joanna/SEKim: You're probably right, and I've come out in the past against blaming the ref, so this is a bit hypocritcal of me. As for Gros, I thought it was a yellow, but not a red, but that's just disagreeing about severity of infraction. While it was reckless, it did not seem so reckless to me as to warrant an ejection. A caution seemed sufficient.

And I completley agree that DC needs to expect that the calls will not go their way, and play through it. That being said, it becomes damn difficult when two players are ejected.

Anon/Rat: You are right, Chicago had earned a penalty as well. And again, my feeling is not that we lost because of the ref, but that ultimately we were handicapped enough that equalizing or pulling ahead became impossible, and weren't given the early opportunity to take the lead we earned. That being said, Chicago does have DC's number. And it hurts.

Blah. I was angry last night. I shouldn't blog angry.

At 18 September, 2006 12:52, Anonymous jeffResistor said...

Segares was on his way to the ground after tripping over his own two feet and/or the ball. The DC defender's (Gros?, Namoff?) hand ended up on his back somehow, most likely to break his fall, but it definitely wasn't a push that brought Segares to the turf. I can't believe how many DC fans are ready to agree that it was a non-call to make up for the Moreno penalty. I'd say it was one of the few good calls Vaughn made all day.

At 18 September, 2006 12:53, Anonymous SE Podcast said...

Rat said, "We (Chicago) own DC, plain and simple. Accept this fact, and you'll be ok."

Just remember this, people. In 2004, we lost three of four to Chicago, and won MLS Cup. Last year, we beat Chicago three of four times, and lost to them in the playoffs. Hell, even in 1998, we beat them in both regular season games, but lost to them in the Cup (screwed by a different "Terry").

At 18 September, 2006 13:54, Anonymous Joanna said...

That's ok D, we still love ya. No need to be all apologetic with Rat/anonymous over there, who can bite us as far as I'm concerned.

Harvey - although it was a long time ago that I played in an organized league, I do remember very well the frustration of botched calls. I remember clear as day the time in an important tournament game when I got called for handling at midfield. The ball had bounced off my hip and the referee was on the other side of me. I don't remember if they had proper linesmen or only club lines, but still, it pissed me the hell off. I gave the ref a look like WTF? and he motioned with his hand to indicate what the call was. I shook my head in disgust and got out of the way for the free kick.

I know from experience that it is completely possible, and in fact necessary, to squelch that impulse to dissent. In my case it was necessary in part because these referees were also my colleagues; I reffed U-littles when I wasn't playing myself. If I was going to expect six foot tall men not to scream in my face about their six year old's soccer game (a reasonable thing to expect, yet I didn't get it) then I had to be able to deal with not liking calls against my team. What I did was I perfected the art of the dirty look. The older refs would tease me about it because they had all been on the receiving end at one time or another. One observed that he never, ever had any dissent from me, "just the look." I did everything in my power to keep it that way. I did that because it was part of my responsibility as a player to respect the integrity of the game.

Now obviously this is a whole different level of soccer than a youth recreational league. But, one thing remains the same, and that is when you are screaming at the referee to "Fuck off" as Namoff was doing (you could read his lips clear as day) that doesn't exactly win him over to your corner. Hell, after that Vaughn was probably looking for a reason to give him a second yellow.

These guys are pros, and they kick way more ass on a soccer field than I could ever dream of doing, so I don't think it's too much to expect them to shut their yaps when it's called for. These stupid yellows for dissent, what do they gain us? Absolutely nothing. Instead you get suspensions, you get a ref who's pissed at you and unwilling to cut you any slack - and plus. It's just wrong to heap personal abuse on some guy who is just out there trying to do his job. It's just wrong. It contributes to the kind of mentality that causes big burly men to get up in the face of twelve year old girls and scream at them. Over a U8 soccer game. I had that happen to me more than once. That's why I feel really strongly about this issue.

There will always be discussion of the quality of the reffing, certain calls, etc. I think that's ok. It's fun to sit around and hash out what we like and don't like and would have done differently. But we have a responsibility, all of us, to know where the line is. To me, that line falls at personal abuse (never ever ok) and at the players and coaches blaming refs for losses. IMO people who do those things are basically supporting the idea that it was ok for that asshole to scream at and threaten my 13 year old self.

Wow, this got long. Short version: Bad calls happen, and our team needs to learn to shut up and deal with it - both because this is the way to win games, and because it's the right thing to do.

At 18 September, 2006 16:29, Anonymous SE Podcast said...

Yes, bad calls happen, and they happen to every team, but they do happen disproportionately to teams that play a smooth-passing, possession game (they hold the ball better, forcing the other team to foul, which then doesn't get called - see Namoff against RSL). As with last year, United's counterattack has been hurt with the poor form/loss of Esky, thus forcing DCU to play more of a possession game, and that's why it seems like United hasn't been getting the calls lately.

At 18 September, 2006 16:53, Anonymous Joanna said...

Interesting point about the possession game... hadn't thought of that.

At 18 September, 2006 17:10, Anonymous SE Podcast said...

The days of Etcheverry and the Magic Triangle, Joanna, were not only glorious for watching beautiful soccer, but also for bitching at the refs. You knew it was September by the headlines that Etch was threatening to quit MLS over the refs.

At 18 September, 2006 17:25, Anonymous Matt said...

Great points Joanna...the complaining has got to stop, it only leads to needless yellows.

I have DK and watched the revs game with their announcers. Lalas was talking about how Nowak is pissed at the refs and blaming them. Lalas countered with the comment that all teams get bad calls, and it tends to even out over the course of a year.

DC is just getting most of the bad ones in the last 6 weeks...so it seems that we are getting piled on.

SE podcast has the comment that I agree the most with...and it's unfortunate that he's correct. Referees in this league (i would even say the UNITED STATES because I see it at all levels) make it easy for the CJ Brown types to destroy good soccer because they don't harshly punish bad fouls.

We all know what CJ and Chicago are going to do to stop DC...but apparently the refs are the only ones paying attention.

The red cards pissed me off because Chicago was allowed to wack, but DC wasn't. A couple of guys i play with that are high level refs and both played high level college...frequently say that if the referee isn't going to protect you..then he must let you protect yourself...meaning...let you wack them back. They both call it "letting the players sort it out"

DC was getting wacked...tried to wack back to protect themselves and was harshly punished.

Ref was trash, Chicago was not a very impressive team...and DC looked frustrated and lost their heads...kind of a shitty game to watch.

At 18 September, 2006 17:31, Anonymous Matt said...

maybe it's just my DC pride talking...but DC is still WAY better than any MLS team.

Chicago? They look like shit..did they do ANYTHING against our D?

We gave them the goal...one of our defenders didn't keep the line.

Does anyone remember Perkins making a save (well...a few great crosses, which he makes look real easy...quite impressive actually)

Chicago is shit...didn't do shit and were very fortunate to win on a day were nothing went right for DC.

I love MLS...but most teams are still pretty boring. DC plays great...Chivas like to attack...DeRosario makes Houston worth watching...maybe you can say the same about Donovan/Galaxy.

At 18 September, 2006 17:37, Anonymous Joanna said...

se podcast, I'm terribly sorry that I missed out!

At 18 September, 2006 17:42, Anonymous Joanna said...

Though now that you and Matt mention it, I'm not altogether sure I'd have been interested enough to stick around if DC had just played stupid longball when I finally got around to showing up for a game.

At 18 September, 2006 18:08, Anonymous Paul said...

joanna--great post.

I agree that showing up the ref is not just ugly and juvenile, it's likely counterproductive.

Thinking about what might actually influence refs to make calls your way reminded me of a study I saw once about the influence of home crowds on referee's judgment on fouls. Two groups of refs watched game tapes showing tackles, one group with the sound on, the other with the sound off. The refs that could hear the home crowd were about 15% more likely to call fouls in favor of the home team. You can read about the study at http://www.hero.ac.uk/uk/culture___sport/archives/2002/domestic_science1598.cfm

What that means to me is that getting a yellow card for dissent at home is even worse than getting one on the road---at home, the crowd is already doing the work for you. And the ref can't card the crowd.

At 18 September, 2006 18:10, Anonymous Paul said...

The latter part of the url I just posted got cut off. In two parts, it is



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