Panama-Mexico official Mark Geiger backed by referee organization

The head of the Professional Referee Organization, which is responsible for overseeing professional referee programs in North America, has issued a strong statement in support of embattled referee Mark Geiger.

Geiger oversaw Wednesday night's Gold Cup semifinal between Mexico and Panama, and endured a highly controversial 120 minutes of action.

Geiger sent off Panama forward Luis Tejada in the 25th minute for what was deemed an elbow to the face of Mexico defender Francisco Rodriguez. He later awarded two penalties to Mexico that were converted by Andres Guardado, allowing El Tri to escape with a 2-1 extra-time victory.

The first penalty was especially contentious, coming in the 88th minute with Los Canaleros leading 1-0.

Panama defender Roman Torres was judged to have handled the ball in his own area, and the subsequent goal by Guardado allowed Mexico to equalize deep into stoppage time. At the final whistle, Geiger was surrounded by Panama players and staff and had to be escorted from the field by security.

But PRO general manager Peter Walton insisted that despite what took place in the match, he still has complete confidence in Geiger.

"One inconsistent performance does not make a referee a poor referee," said Walton via email. "Geiger is a very good referee and has proved that on numerous occasions. PRO will fully support him and his standing with PRO has not been [affected] by this performance."

The condemnation of Geiger has been severe. Herrera said afterwards that he didn't think the first penalty -- one that was awarded in the 88th minute with Panama leading 1-0 -- was warranted. The Panamanian Football Federation called for the removal of CONCACAF's entire referees committee.

Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez said, "If it was up to me, I could say 'I do not want to continue in football anymore.' It is a stain on football, it's horrible, a robbery. I clean [the names of] Mexico's players, it was nothing to do with them. They deserve to be champions."

Geiger is highly experienced, having refereed the 2011 U-20 World Cup final between Brazil and Portugal, as well as three games at last summer's World Cup. Geiger received positive reviews in his first two matches in Brazil, but was involved in a controversial decision in the round of 16 match between France and Nigeria, when he only issued a yellow card to France midfielder Blaise Matuidi for a hard foul on Ogenyi Onazi that knocked the player out of the game.

In light of Geiger's performance on Wednesday night there has been speculation as to whether he would continue to be selected for international matches. But Walton indicated that he is confident Geiger will.

"I see no reason not to re-nominate him for the international panel for 2016," he said.