After his squad accrued a season-high 25 fouls -- including Thierry Henry's third career red card -- on Sunday, Red Bulls GM Erik Soler joined the fracas by crying foul about the officiating.
On Monday, Soler released the following statement with regard to the foul imbalance that transpired between the Red Bulls and Timbers during Sunday's match at Jeld-Wen Field:
“We have carefully reviewed the film of our match against Portland last night and I can safely say that the level of refereeing was absolutely below the standards of what is required for a MLS match and completely unacceptable. First, the red card given to Thierry Henry was inexplicable. There was no violent conduct on his part whatsoever and this decision was made by a linesman who was more than half a field away. Second, in any soccer game, there is no way that one team can draw 20 more fouls than the other team, especially in a match where one team drew just five fouls. I have never seen this occur in my 30 years in the game.
We are aware that U.S. Soccer and MLS are working hard to improve the officiating in this country and we support those efforts wholeheartedly. However, if we want to continue increasing the level of play, we cannot let these types of refereeing performances occur. We look forward to speaking with the League to appeal Thierry’s automatic red card suspension and expect that it will be rescinded so that he is available for our match Thursday in Seattle.”
Unlike other North American sports leagues, Major League Soccer does not possess any direct influence over the referees overseeing the matches. Instead, U.S. Soccer supplies and oversees the referee corps assigned to every match -- meaning the buck stops with U.S. Soccer and not MLS in terms of clarification of referee controversies. MLS can review and adjust penalties given by referees, but cannot dictate policy as to how referees administer their rule enforcement responsibilities.
The only known transparency of referee oversight comes in the form of the 2011 Referee Week in Review blog located on U.S. Soccer's web site. After recapping the circumstances surrounding Henry's ejection, MLS referee Michael Kennedy offers the following assessment in this week's blog regarding how the referees handled the situation:
Despite all the variables at play, the referee crew does a good job of maintaining their focus on all elements of the game. The referee and assistant referee do an excellent job of communicating to make sure the misconduct is addressed. This incident happens in stoppage time of a closely contested game and is a great example of why referee crews must be vigilant and maintain their concentration until the final whistle.
That statement celebrates the referees' vigilance, but offers little in contextual terms of the dialogue between the referee and the assistant referee that led to the French striker being sent off. Soler will likely ask for further clarification during his appeal to the league later this week.
What a Coincidence. Timbers coach John Spencer watched Sunday's match from the owners' box as he served a one-game suspension and paid a $2,500 fine for publicly criticizing the referees during and after his club's 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids on June 11. Whether Soler or the Red Bulls receive a similar fate is up to MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Low Level. While Dwayne De Rosario answered Henry's ejection by converting the Red Bulls' first successful penalty kick of the season to salvage the 3-3 draw, the former Gunner could not endorse the resiliency of his shorthanded club in stoppage time.
“I don’t think Portland deserved to draw the game, and I don’t think we did deserve to draw the game either,” Henry said to MLSsoccer.com. “They deserved to win.”
Henry was nominated for AT&T Goal of the Week honors after lifting a shot past Timbers 'keeper Tony Perkins inside the near post for his league-leading eighth goal of the season, but remains unavailable for Thursday's match against the Seattle Sounders pending Soler's appeal to the MLS Disciplinary Committee.