It took Major League Soccer exactly two weeks into the season for the attention to shift towards the quality of officiating. In other words, once again the referees are the issue. MLS and the United States Soccer Federation have already worked up a potential solution, announcing their Professional Referee Organization earlier this month. Credit them for addressing an ongoing problem, but it's probably safe to assume they weren't looking for a few immediate examples.
Unfortunately, that's what they got. New England felt they were victimized by an early red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity. San Jose argued a call and a no call in their loss to Houston, leading to more questions about what exactly is and isn't a penalty in this League.
Not exactly the message MLS is looking to send, and once again it raises that old quality control problem. All involved realize mistakes will happen, but it's the frequency of those mistakes along with adhering to interpretations of the rules that do very little for the game on the field that continues to hamper progress. In fairness to the officiating, there are MLS teams that would find reasons to complain about perfectly run games. That's part of the problem, a clogged communications channel where it becomes difficult to separate the meaningful complaints from the noise.
As it stands, there's too much evidence behind the complaints of coaches and players. It's one thing to be arguing judgment calls after the fact, quite another to be able to show that the officials made mistakes.
It's very easy for a team to blame the referee. Every team in any league engages in it and one point or another during the course of the season. Yet a defense becomes very difficult when a match official clearly gets it wrong. You don't have to be a referee assessor to realize a missed handball in the box changes a game. MLS realizes they need to curtail the complaints, but that only works when the complaints no longer have as much merit.
Corner Rating: (with 1 meaning the officiating problems continue and 11 meaning the Professional Referee Organization quickly changes things for the better) 5.
Last Week's Corner: We got a response from Real Salt Lake's Try Fitz-Gerald who wanted to make it clear that his club wasn't letting LA off easy:
An important fact to note about last year’s early-season RSL 4-1 win over LA that was seemingly discounted in yesterday’s “The Corner” due to the int’l absence of Landon Donovan … on that particular int’l match date, LA was also missing Donovan Ricketts to Jamaica, while RSL was ALSO missing two valued starters – Costa Rican FW Alvaro Saborio – who has scored 34 goals in the 2010/11 seasons in all competitions – along with Canadian MF Will Johnson, who has played virtually every minute for which he was available since arriving in Utah in August, 2008 …
Seems to us that there could always be mitigating factors for both LA and RSL in mutual meetings due to injuries, national team duty, etc. – we were down Borchers and a 50% Olave in West Final last year, Morales was 5 games back from horrific injury, they’re down Omar Gonzalez now, and our June 20 and Oct 6 meetings will probably be marred by some fatigue/injuries on both sides due to FIFA WCQ …
This does nothing to change our corner rating, so that stays 3. But it's worth keeping in mind that MLS's scheduling impacts all clubs.