Jason Kreis vs. referee assignments; is the Real Salt Lake manager correct in his complaints?

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Before you read Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis’ caustic comments on referee Matthew Foerster, here are the relevant facts:

  • Foerster came into Saturday’s contest with 15 matches of MLS experience.
  • This was a contest between two of the league’s top teams of the moment, the current Eastern and Western conference leaders. Real Salt Lake is currently in the Supporters Shield lead.
  • Sporting Kansas City matches are difficult to deal with. The team is smart in its tactical, midfield fouling and, along with San Jose, the league’s most physical team. Plus, manager Peter Vermes will go apoplectic along the sidelines about the smallest things, like10 yards of positioning on a throw-in.
  • Real Salt Lake’s Chris Wingert was ejected, receiving his second yellow card in the 66th minute. That turned the match, which RSL was leading at the time. SKC’s game-winner fell in the 97th minute.
  • The second yellow was harsh – but the first was probably a yellow and a half as Wingert lined up and leveled Kei Kamara. So, that’s a wash in my mind.

So … here’s what Kreis had to say:

Again, I don’t want to belabor the point about the referee being poor. He is going to be poor. It is the 16th match of his entire career. To referee in a sold-out stadium, in a first-place versus second-place matchup is the wrong game for somebody that has [little] experience in professional soccer refereeing.”

“I asked again, and I’ll say it now: Maybe I need to call them and speak to them directly. There needs to be more thought about how we are assigning the referees.”

So, does he have a point?

Yes and no.

There are instances where I have said the same this year, that these things deserve more thought.

As for Saturday, there were certainly more experienced men out there. In Chicago, Edvin Jurisevic was doing his 60st MLS match (one between two teams nowhere near playoff positions). In Toronto, Jorge Gonzalez was on MLS match No. 101. In Montreal, Hilario Grajeda was on his 90th MLS match. (Although, in fairness, Impact manager Marco Schallibaum is proving quite difficult to deal with, so an experienced man is handy there.)

So, in that regard, Kreis has a point.

But are those guys much better than Foerster? Not much, if we’re being honest.

The other element to consider here is a busy summer of soccer that is stretching the pool of experienced referees.

The bottom line here: Major League Soccer refereeing is improving … slowly. Believe me. It is.

But clearly there is still some distance to go; the best everyone can hope for is continued improvement, and that the bad breaks equal out in the end.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.