Matt Hedges, Orr Barouch

Blowing it big-time: video of a weighty referee mistake


There’s going to be a lot of referee talk today … so let’s just get started.

And let’s not waste time by going namby-pamby and wading in slowly; let’s dive right into the pit and get muddy:

Hilario Grajeda blew it last night, big.

Referees have a tough job, and some decisions are tougher than others. Dive or foul inside the penalty area? Intent on handball? Red or yellow on a dangerous challenge? Collision of malice or benign intent?

These can be weighty choices attached to nuance and situation, complicated by the vagaries of purpose, history or angle of the view.

Then again, some choices are black and white. Sometimes it comes down to “them’s the rules.” And that’s the situation Grajeda faced last night as Chicago’s Marco Pappa took about four steps inside the 18 on a penalty kick against FC Dallas. It was a critical decision as Pappa’s goal was the game-winner in a 2-1 Fire victory. Watch it here:



(Update, via the Washington Post’s Steven Goff: On his Facebook page, Kevin Hartman wrote: “Man, that guy was so far inside the box, I wasn’t sure which player was going to take the penalty kick.” Brilliant!)

When Pappa got into the penalty area by 3-4 steps and then converted the rebound off Hartman’s save, that became an easy call. It’s one that nobody around Chicago would even protest, in all likelihood.

It’s the rule. And yet, Grajeda inexplicably, reprehensibly ignored the laws of the game.

These things are frequently ignored on a successful spot-shot conversion, but only when the referee typically adjudges that a technical violation didn’t influence the play, and therefore doesn’t warrant a re-kick. Even then, egregious violations sometimes do compel a PK retake. For instance, referee Mark Geiger ordered a retake just last weekend, adjudging that Chivas USA players got into the penalty area too quickly on Jose Correa’s second-half penalty kick (also a game-winner). Jorge Villafaña encroached by 3-4 steps. So Geiger was correct in requiring the re-kick. That’s too far.

Watch it here:


Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.