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Referee struggled in physical Sporting KC vs Houston match

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MLS referee Jorge Gonzalez struggled with calls in physical Sporting KC vs Houston match, getting some calls wrong, correcting some and even changing his story

Gonzalez issues a straight red to Dynamo Nathan Sturgis
Gonzalez issues a straight red to Dynamo Nathan Sturgis
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Sporting Kansas City match with Houston Dynamo was a little tough on referee Jorge Gonzalez Saturday night. Very early in the game, Gonzalez took a tumble but quickly recovered and kept playing,  refereeing.

Just a little over 10 minutes in, Will Bruin had a breakaway in on Sporting KC's goal. Tim Melia came out and Bruin tried to touch the ball past the keeper but Melia was able to dive to the side and grab the ball. Gonzalez initially signaled a penalty but assistant referee Corey Parker was consulted and the penalty was waived off.

Just before the end of the first half, Dom Dwyer challenged Tyler Deric for a ball in the air and they collided. When Dwyer got back up Deric appeared to assist him back to the ground. This resulted in both Dwyer and Deric receiving yellows. Dwyer will now miss the next match because of yellow card accumulation.

Gonzalez did issue a straight red late in the match to Nathan Sturgis on a hard tackle to Roger Espinoza that seemed justified at the time but Houston manager Owen Coyle felt was a fair challenge.

In the 94th minute, Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler did his long throw in a little too well and over shot his team mates that were right in front of the goal. The ball sailed to the other side of the box where it was touched and redirected by the arm of Houston Dynamo player Luis Garrido. Gonzalez quickly denied the penalty seeming to indicate the ball went off of the Dynamo players' hip.

Gonzalez indicated that it went off Garrido's side or hip to the Sporting KC coaches when they questioned him after the match and SKC Captain Matt Besler said he was told the same thing by Gonzalez.

In MLS matches, if there are questions for the referee, the press has a representative "pool reporter" present those questions in writing (max of three and one follow-up) to the referee through a third party. The answers, follow-up and resulting answer all go through the third party back through the pool reporter to the rest of the media.

Here are the questions and responses presented to and received from referee Jorge Gonzalez.

Postgame Questions and Responses from Referee Jorge Gonzalez

Q: Why was a handball not called on Luis Garrido in the 94th minute?

A: It was judged not to be deliberate.

Q: How can a handball be judged not deliberate when the player's arm is in an extended position?

A: The arm was judged to be in a natural playing position.

Q: Why were cautions issued to Dom Dwyer and Tyler Deric late in the first half?

A: They both committed acts, which in the opinion of the referee, showed a lack of respect for the game (e.g. aggressive and inflammatory behavior).

Q: What was the reason for overturning the penalty call against Tim Melia in the first half?

A: After consultation with the assistant referee, it was judged that Tim Melia fairly challenged for the ball.

Not only does the video seem to indicate that it was a handball but Gonzalez later confirmed it hit Garrido's arm also. Gonzalez responded that the contact was not deliberate and that Garrido's arm was in a natural playing position.

So kudos to Gonzalez for getting the call right regarding the Melia penalty but it is amazing that he was the closest person to Garrido in the whole stadium and got the call wrong. Not only got the call wrong but essentially changed his story in the time between his responses on the field to the post game pool reporter questions.

Arguments can be made on a lot of calls, little ones will be missed by the best of referees. It's the big calls that change games and need to be right.

Time for instant replay?

The Melia and Garrido plays can be seen in these highlights: