In Saturday's loss by the Swope Park Rangers at Saint Louis FC there were some questions about calls that were made, or not made in the game.
When asked about the officiating after practice this week, Rangers head coach Marc Dos Santos responded, "Let me be clear, I hate talking about refs and I want to respect them as professionals but let's just analyze facts. There are plays minute 30, minute 38 and minute 42. Look, one is a clear red card on (the foul on) Granitto, a tackle from Bond that is a clear red card. He only gets a yellow and a minute later Ballo sees a second yellow and is sent off. So instead of starting the second half a man up, we start playing the second half a man down. It changes things. "
The Rangers had questioned prior to the match about referee Luigi Lazareno to see if he had been the middle official before. He was assigned by PRO (Professional Referee Organization) and they were told it was his first match at center but he had worked as an assistant the week before. It was also the first USL match of the year for the rest of the crew.
With the game being between two opponents destined to be rivals because of the cross-state history between St. Louis and Kansas City and a large crowd, the Rangers were understandably concerned prior to the match.
The Rangers requested two of the incidents be reviewed by the USL Disciplinary Panel but first let's take a look at a foul that was called. Right at the 37:39 mark, a ball bounced outside the box when Swope Park defender Jimmy Mulligan and Saint Louis FC mid Drew Conner both went for it. It appears that Mulligan saw Conner sliding in and pulled up but ended up falling over Conner as he slid through.
The referee was decisive and quickly called it in favor of Saint Louis FC and Chad Bond scored on the resulting free kick.
The question is what is the foul? Even the Saint Louis announcers were surprised that is was called against Swope Park. Could it have been a delayed advantage call from a previous foul? If so there was no indication.
Dangerous tackle on Duke
The first of the two calls that the Rangers requested to be reviewed was Richard Dixon's tackle on Christian Duke at 30:20. Duke was chasing down a ball and Dixon lunged with both feet out and came close to scissoring (if he did not) Duke to the ground as he slid through Duke's ankle.
"I think the tackle by Dixon on Duke was a clear yellow for sure," Dos Santos stated. "In some countries it could have been a red."
This is exactly the type of call that PRO is focusing on at the MLS level. Seattle Sounder Oniel Fisher was red carded for a much less dangerous tackle on Sporting Kansas City's Connor Hallisey early in the season.
PRO should have the same standards throughout, if it is illegal and a red at MLS it should be a red at USL.
"A hard, wild tackle"
The other incident was Chad Bond's tackle on Tomas Granitto at 42:20. The Saint Louis announcer even called it "a hard, wild tackle". Granitto got to a loose ball before Bond who lunged out with extended right leg and studs directly out connecting with Granitto's ankle. Luckily he was not seriously hurt but it could have easily been a season ending injury. The ref did issue a yellow but why not red? Studs out, straight leg, contact....
When asked what the USL review decided, the Rangers responded, "The USL has informed us that they will not review either incident. The explanation provided to us was that the USL does not examine incidents which were seen by the referee."
In MLS, those two incidents would have been looked at and likely would have received additional punishments. While it is understandable that USL and MLS have different rules for their league model, PRO referees in both leagues should strive to have the same criteria for what is and isn't a card and USL should review these types of plays.
Swope Park GM Kurt Austin in response to a request for comment:
"Player safety is our chief concern and ultimately, that is the responsibility of the players on the field. However, match officials and the league's disciplinary panel are in place to hold players accountable when their actions endanger another's safety. Major League Soccer has been a leader for the sport in this regard. We trust that the USL and PRO will consider implementing a similarly strong stance for the good of the game."
Dixon not only was not carded for the foul on Duke, nor was the play reviewed but instead, Dixon is rewarded by being named to the USL team of the week.