It may seem misplaced to pick on MLS officiating on a weekend when the men in the middle got so much right.
Robbie Keane offside on the potential late equalizer in Portland? Well done, sirs.
Controversial handball call in Seattle on Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson? They nailed it. Good call.
A trio of handball appeals in the penalty area in Philly’s close and surprising (1-0) win over Kansas City? Those all looked correct, too.
Then calls weren’t all correct, for sure; there will always be a few that are, let’s say, “something less than right.” There were around MLS in Round 31, but the body of work was a better than average weekend for league officials, especially in the potential game-changing-decision department.
Simon Borg, noted rabble-rouser from Major League Soccer’s bulging editorial staff, does his usual thorough job of covering matters of the men in the middle here.
One potential game-changer was a swing and a miss, however, as referee Jose Carlos Rivero needed to deal with Steven Lenhart’s nasty elbow against Chivas USA defender Steve Purdy. And by “deal with,” I mean “red card.”
Lenhart appears to swing his elbow and make solid contact with Purdy’s face. Rivero did caution the Earthquakes’ striker, who was later ejected for a second yellow. (Unlike Borg, I think the second booking was deserved.)
Here’s the deal on Lenhart: he deserves zero benefit of the doubt. Anybody who has watched the guy knows he plays somewhere between “overly aggressive” and “downright dirty.” We’ve written about it again and again. If it seems harsh to toss a player in the first half, there’s a mountain of evidence in the Lenhart file that says otherwise.
In other words, if interim San Jose manager Mark Watson or anyone else wants to roll the dice and put this guy out there, they deserve whatever they get. If that means playing a man down for almost an hour (as a red card in this case would have meant) so be it.
This is one choice that could impact the ongoing, tight-as-can-be playoff races. Just ask Vancouver, Colorado, Los Angeles or possibly even Dallas – the teams still jostling with San Jose for that final playoff spot or two in the West.
The disciplinary committee may well add a game suspension for Lenhart’s elbow – but it doesn’t go back and alter the outcome of Sunday’s contest, where San Jose eventually took all three points.