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Why Both FC Dallas Goals Shouldn’t have Counted Against Sporting KC

PRO Referees: Consistently Inconsistent™

MLS: FC Dallas at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City suffered a 2-1 defeat on Saturday night at home against FC Dallas, one of the worst teams in all of MLS until their last two matches. Both Dallas goals came quickly to start each half and there is no doubt SKC have to do better. Though I’m going to spend a few minutes bashing the referees, teams have to overcome bad officiating. If you aren’t interested in critiquing the play immediately before each goal, turn away now.

The First Dallas Goal

Paxton Pomykal struck just two and a half minutes into the game with a shot from outside the box that left Sporting KC and the stadium stunned. The argument against this goal, is the play immediately before it. Johnny Russell losses possession when a Ryan Hollingshead handball interferes with Russell’s play.

Hollingshead then takes a single touch, passes to Pomykal, who takes a touch, and blasts it home. In 2020, IFAB introduced a rule that says the following:

“if the ball touches an attacking player’s hand/arm and then goes to another attacker and a goal or scoring opportunity occurs immediately, this is a handball offence,” and added “it is not an offence if, after an accidental handball, the ball travels some distance or there are several passes or there is a notable ‘time interval’ between the ‘handball’ and the goal or scoring opportunity.” (emphasis mine)

The handball offense occurs at 2:17 and the ball is in the net at 2:24 (and past Melia at 2:23). I would say that’s pretty immediate, one pass isn’t several passes and seven seconds isn’t a “notable time interval.”

I saw some arguments that the ball hits Hollingshead’s thigh before it hits his hand, which it does. But it’s not like a defensive handball that can be ruled to have traveled too short of a distance or to have hit another body part before the hand. It simply says “if the ball touches an attacking player’s hand/arm,” which it does.

The play is, of course, eligible for for review. If it was reviewed, it was very quick as play was restarted almost immediately. I realize the above gif is somewhat blurry, so I went back and got a screencap of the ball hitting Hollingshead’s arm, just for a tad more proof.

Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton react immediately to the handball. Arguably they, or other players on their team, should have done more to stop the ensuing counter. And the ref is so very close to the action to have missed it.

Update 10:15 am: It turns out, in the 2021 IFAB law changes, there was a clarification which makes everything I wrote above incorrect to a certain extent. It’s still a handball, it’s just not reviewable. I’ll leave it there so the pain of me being wrong is captured, but here is the new interpretation:

“Accidental handball by a team-mate immediately before a goal is scored or which creates a goal-scoring opportunity are no longer offences.”

The Second Dallas Goal

The second goal is scored from a similar position on the opposite side of the field. Jesus Ferreira bangs one in from outside the box. However, I’d argue it was a foul on Tafari that leads to this chance.

Sporting KC had just broken up a Dallas attack when the ball was passed to Khiry Shelton to hold it up and push for a counter. Then Tafari comes along and gives a two-handed shove in the back and Shelton is visibly moved off the ball. A couple quick passes later and the goal is scored.

Shelton famously almost never goes down when he’s fouled. He tries to fight through everything, which is admirable. If this was a striker like Raul Ruidiaz, he’d have flopped to the ground to sell the contact and maybe rolled around a bit. Because Shelton doesn’t do this, the ref, who is jogging in the direction of the uncalled foul, probably sees it and calls it.

I’ll admit this one is a bit more of a reach. Uncalled fouls happen all the time. Though I don’t think anyone would argue Alex Chilowicz (the head referee) had a good night. Sporting still can’t relax after the turnover and need to react better. Both shots are super low percentage shots too, so maybe it’s a bit unlucky they both go in.

Alex Chilowicz’s No Good, Very Bad Night

A little over a week after SKC suffered through an atrociously officiated game by Joseph Dickerson, they suffered another tough one. I’m probably too quick to pick on the refs but Johnny Russell voiced his frustration after the game as well.

Lots of quotes can be pulled from what Russell said, but he seemed most frustrated with the time wasting that went unpunished until the 80th minute. Apparently Chilowicz told Russell that the way Dallas plays “frustrates me as well.” The thing is, he has control of the game. Or in this case, he didn’t have control.

Dallas was time wasting in the first half. If you wait until the 80th minute to give a yellow, you are letting this nonsense happen. Russell goes on to say, “the standard of officiating is actually starting to get beyond a joke.” It’s hard to disagree. He goes on to say they should have won the game anyways and he doesn’t want to make excuses, but “[time wasting] isn’t the right way to play the game.”

There were several other instances in the match with some controversy, let’s break them down quick and move on to Sporting’s midweek game.

  • The Daniel Salloi “diving” yellow card is ridiculous. It may not have been a foul against Dallas, but there is a ton of contact and it’s definitely not a dive. The more I’ve looked at it, the more it seems like a penalty too, though I’m open to the argument it’s shoulder-to-shoulder. I’ve definitely seen waaaay less called.
  • The Gadi Kinda goal that’s called back appears correct. Luis Martins is offside just before the goal and he makes a play on the ball.
  • Bressan gets a yellow card for time wasting after tying his shoes and doing everything possible to slow his walk from the field as he’s subbed off. Then he proceeds to throw a hissy fit when he throws his shin guard and then takes a bite out of it. So bizarre. I’ve seen arguments he could get a second yellow for more time wasting or dissent, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that.
  • In stoppage time, a Dallas player is fouled but goes down out of bounds. At first Chilowicz tells the player to restart with a throw. Then he stops him to check the player. As many SKC players point out, the player is off the field, so then Alex gets upset that Dallas hasn’t thrown in the ball, even though HE is the one who stopped them. Bizarre.
  • Before Daniel’s “diving” yellow, there is this crazy sequence in the box with multiple shots. I’m not sure if it’s a foul where Daniel is shielded from the ball and goes to ground, but I’ll just point it out.
  • Fontas is drug down in the box on a corner kick but no call as he’s the target of the corner.
  • Last one, before the half on the final corner kick, Salloi is bumped in the box and goes down. Somehow the foul is on Daniel?

Again, it’s just frustrating see Dallas do what they do and get away with it. The cure is don’t let them score then these shenanigans don’t work. That’s the bigger problem Sporting have to fix. Falling behind early.