Soccer Federation Criticizes Penalty Call Against D.C. United

Review Says Call in May 30 Game at Revolution was 'Doubtful, Soft and Trifling'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 6, 2009

For the third time this season, officiating supervisors from soccer's national governing body have criticized a call made during a crucial moment of a D.C. United match.

In a strongly worded review posted on the U.S. Soccer Federation's Web site, directors of the referee program said that game officials erred in awarding a penalty kick to New England in the waning moments of a 2-1 victory over United last Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

The play occurred in the 89th minute when Revolution forward Taylor Twellman fell in the penalty area despite mild contact by United defender Bryan Namoff. Referee Hilario Grajeda initially allowed play to continue, but one of the assistant referees (linesmen) ruled that Namoff had committed a foul.

Grajeda accepted the assistant's ruling without further discussion, and after vehement protests by United, Steve Ralston converted the tiebreaking penalty kick.

Paul Tamberino, the USSF's director of referee development, and Brian Hall, manager of assessment and training, concluded this week that the assistant referee's call was both incorrect and an example of "over-involvement."

They wrote that "there is minimal contact. The contact is doubtful, soft and trifling. It does not prevent the attacker from playing the ball nor does it cause him to misplay the ball. . . . The attacker is falling backward on his own volition. . . . This is a 50-50 call that must be left to the referee, who is positioned much closer. . . . The [assistant] should leave the decision to the referee."

The report said that Grajeda should have stopped play and discussed the matter with the assistant before awarding the penalty kick. It also noted that, other than Twellman, no New England players showed signs of discontent -- "a sign that can help confirm any instinctual feelings the referee may have."

Earlier this season, the USSF said referee Jair Marrufo should have immediately stopped United's season opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy when teammates Devon McTavish and Greg Janicki were involved in a bloody, head-to-head collision. Last month, Tamberino and Hall wrote that an assistant referee's poor positioning allowed a Chivas USA player, who was clearly offside, to embark on a breakaway and score easily during a 2-2 tie with United.

Asked for his reaction to the latest USSF report, United General Manager Dave Kasper said: "You are going to have decisions go for you and you are going to have decisions go against you, and over the course of the season, you hope it evens out."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company