Considering hypocrisy, lame apologies in Major League Soccer

17 Comments

As we look back on a couple of consequential refereeing decisions in Major League Soccer’s 31st Round, this time it’s the managers who need to go sit in the corner and, you know, “think about what they have done,” rather than the officials with the whistles.

That’s right. As I said in an earlier post, the refs didn’t get all the potential game-changing decisions right, but the men in the middle did pretty well, all things considered.

But what we got from a couple of prominent MLS managers and one prominent player deserves an appetizer portion of admonishment. In considering some post-game comments from LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, Galaxy striker Robbie Keane and Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes, let’s just say they have all had better moments.

There is a gentlemanly, professional level of comportment we should expect from Arena and Keane, the dean of MLS managers and one of the league’s highest paid men, respectively. So they need a calling out for their histrionics late Sunday in Portland, when they went all kinds of crazy over an offside decision that nullified a potentially huge, late equalizer.

Thing is, they were dead wrong. It was a great spot by hawkeye referee assistant Eric Boria.

I would be inclined to give Arena and Keane – and other Galaxy players who confronted game officials en masse, so we are looking at you, MLS, to make good your preseason bluster on eliminating that mess – for their original actions. It’s a moment full intensity, meaning and playoff impact. Yes, things get understandably heated.

But the lack of subsequent mea culpa, the dismissive and unapologetic stance on their furious rage, was distasteful to say the least. There was a real imbalance in the way Arena and Keane showed up officials on national TV, but then had so little to say about it later when they were shown to be wrong.

Keane was dismissive, offering only that “someone said that I had a shoulder offside. If it was offside then it was offside.”

Gracious, eh?

But it was better than Arena’s response. He took the opportunity to say, essentially, that they might not have been screwed this time, but they’ve sure been screwed plenty of times before!

What he said, exactly: “If the referee is right, more credit to him. We’ve been in a lot of games this year where the plays aren’t even close and they don’t have them right. So, if they had it right, more credit to them.”

Both quotes are from Adam Serrano’s LA Galaxy blog, by the way.

If either of the Galaxy guys want to know how to cop to a faulty blown top, see Jurgen Klopp’s sincere, self-effacing efforts.

In Kansas City, Peter Vermes was right and yet a bit wrong as he complained about time wasting by Philadelphia in the teams’ match Friday, a big 1-0 upset by the visiting Union.

Vermes is the among the league’s chief complainers. On the one hand, he’s a smart guy and he generally “gets it” in life. But the SKC manager’s high passion for the job can cloud his vision of the bigger picture – and this instance is a good example.

Some of what Vermes had to say about his perceptions of Philadelphia delaying restarts and such as they milked the clock, and then about the scourge of selling unattractive soccer in MLS:

Players adapt very quickly and so do teams. The second that the players understand that the referees don’t want you touching the ball, because you’re going to [issue] a yellow card, they will stop. They know. But if they know they get away with it, they keep doing it.

“ … When we’re trying to put an entertainment value to the game, and to our fans and all across the league, they have a major responsibility in how that game is perceived by the fans – meaning the referee crew. And it’s unfortunate that week in, week out – and I bring this up week in and week out – it’s not managed across the board.”

He’s correct about MLS referees’ inability to better manage the pace of matches. I’ve written about it over and over: my biggest complaint with MLS officiating isn’t about weighty choices on penalty kicks and such. Those are adjudged correctly and incorrectly in leagues across the world every week.

It’s the MLS referees’ overall match management that lags far behind the world’s best leagues. Elimination of time wasting is part of it. So, spot-on by Vermes on this one.

But here’s the thing: His team is one of the best in MLS in tactical fouling, eliminating the budding opportunities in the midfield before they become scoring chances. And his team is among the league’s best at walking that fine line between “fair-and-square physical” and “illegally, overly aggressive.”

Guys like right back Chance Myers and center back Aurelien Collin get away with a lot, among the best at exploiting MLS officiating that continues to tilt the balance too far toward “physical” over “skillful.”

That’s unattractive, too.