It happened again.
And you knew it would, right? A refereeing issue — and let’s be perfectly clear here — didn’t cost Real Salt Lake the match. But we shouldn’t just excuse referees for not costing a team the match, because for the second time this season, we’ve been hit by a referee who couldn’t figure out how a dropped ball is supposed to be played.
Back in April, one Ted Unkel caused a bit of a stir when he handed Luke Mulholland a yellow card for, well, nothing at all. Read the link — it’s all there.
Here’s a relevant clip and portion:
Then a problem arose when Unkel tried to manufacture and manipulate the restart. He dropped the ball at Benny Feilhaber’s feet and expected and demanded that players co-operate when they have no obligation to do so.
As soon as Feilhaber has possession of the ball, play has officially restarted and Luke Mulholland has every right to challenge. When challenging, Feilhaber commits a reckless tactical foul on Mulholland and deserved to receive a yellow card from Unkel. But Mulholland also received a yellow card - he can feel unfortunate. For what? Mulholland had every right to challenge as the game was in open play and referees cannot manipulate the players to co-operate in manufacturing the restart.
Pretty clear cut, right? No referee would take that advice and simply throw it in the garbage, right?
Well, Silviu Petrescu took what Ted Unkel did and made it even worse.
That’s not to say he shouldn’t have stopped play. The ball was flat, apparently. That’s a good reason. The equipment was inadequate for the game. Done and dusted, right? Well, no.
First, he dropped the ball once. Then, he dropped the ball ... again. And then, to cap it all off, he dropped the ball a third time. He tried to coerce the players into taking the dropped ball in a particular way, and it took minutes off the game. Sure, he added it back in stoppage time, but it was completely nonsensical.
... Wenger decides not to adhere to the referee's request and kicks the ball out of play. Petrescu then decides to have another dropped ball and this time drops it at the feet of Collen Warner. He plays the ball to Eric Alexander who then also kicks the ball out of play, and immediately receives a yellow card from the referee. In the end, Petrescu wisely decides to drop the ball to Real’s Joao Plata and play continues.
So — it happened again. And here’s what PRO said.
... once the ball touches the ground, the ball is in play and players have the right to play the ball wherever they want to.
Ironically, if he’d have allowed a contested dropped ball with players from both teams involved – or simply allowed Salt Lake to take a throw-in when the ball went out of play – it would have taken up less time than attempting to circumvent the proceedings, and would have avoided an unnecessary yellow card to Alexander.
It took just over one minute of game time for this to resolve itself — in stoppage time — with no rule broken by the players. The only rules being broken were broken by the referee.
This has happened to Real Salt Lake twice this season, and frankly, it’s the sort of basic rule that should be easy to follow. It’s apparently not. Maybe we need to send our referees away for a while to simply read the laws of the game. It might do them some good.