The nine man Claret-and-Cobalt take on the twelve man Whitecaps
Imagine the scenario: A crowd of 20,000 supporters watching a soccer match. The atmosphere is loud and pressurized. Drums and voices in unison cheer out in favor of the home side. It is then that a home team player lunges into the path of an opponent to relieve him of the possession. The visitor, however, falls down, the ball bobbles away, and the crowd roar for a dive.
Does the referee blow the whistle, or does he let the play continue and so avoid giving a contentious decision? Which side is penalized and would the referee give the same decision to the other side? A wealth of anecdotal stories flourish in this respect, but how did this play out last Saturday at Rio Tinto?
The dictionary defines consistency as "marked by harmony, regulatory or steady continuity: free from variation or contradiction; uniform." The theme of consistency is a recurring topic when addressing referees as it is from their perceptions that referees can give an objectively correct decision.
Probably out of ten decisions, seven or eight of them coincide with the official rules of the game, while the other two maybe were not. There are reasons like positioning - had the referee's attention be drawn somewhere else - that can alter the perception of the match for the ref. However, the pressure of the match can also influence decision-making.
Take a look at the first card of the match:
As you see Russell Teibert went in for a two-foot, studs up challenge on Olmes Garcia from behind. The decision: top pocket.
Now, take a look at Sebastian Saucedo's red card:
Again a two-footed, studs up challenge but this time it was from the front with the ref having a clearer view of the tackle (in both cases, Real Salt Lake players were closer to the ref).
This is where things get interesting. As Mauro Rosales goes down, Vancouver Whitecaps players begin to crowd referee Ted Unkel - pressuring the ref to make a quick decision and this time he elects for the back pocket.
Therefore, given the definition of consistency, Unkel is obviously not consistent throughout the match and between the sides - given his view of the incident or whatever else it can be chalked up to.
Yes, it is common knowledge that a ref can make a bad decision against one team and, while not necessarily putting it right, give the decision in the next 50-50 challenge to the team that was previously penalized. However, making the correct decision based on the unwritten rule of consistency should be more important than giving into the instance pressure of a team that was dealt a harsh foul.
The action, or more to the point of inaction in regards to the first foul, by the referee leaves the door open to accusations of bias, favoritism, and blatant cheating from fans of the "offended' team and muttering of disbelief from the other camp. It has to be said, however, that in both cases the fouls were bad enough to warrant a red card.
Referees really need to get back to basics and not let the persistent yammering of coaches and players get in the way of decision making. (This ref was doing well in that regards giving Jamison Olave a yellow for dissent after a tackle in the 41st minute, but again failed to be consistent not carding the Whitecaps players who flocked to his side after Rosales went down.)
Maybe Oscar Pareja was on to something in "Tissue Gate."
If RSL wants to remain in control of their own destinies, the club will have to learn how to deal better with the ref - and maybe cry a little more to get decisions to go their way. The Claret-and-Cobalt will have to be smart going forward with the referees and learn the ways they maintain their matches.
What do you think? Did the ref's action, or inaction, alter the match? How can RSL deal with refs better in the future? Will the inconsistency of referees continue to be a talking point in the league and for RSL this season? What do you think that this match foretells about the future of Real Salt Lake? How do you think RSL did in this match? Share your opinions in the comments section below.