In this edition of Monday Morning Centre Back I address "The No Call" and why despite my initial anger, Ricardo Salazar is still in my eyes the best referee in MLS.
Sometimes the key to a playoff run is as much about luck as it is about being good. That's not to say that the Dynamo are not a good team, they clearly are, but luck broke their way on Sunday against DC United. A healthy Chris Pontius would have made a difference, a healthy Andy Najar would have made a difference, most importantly, if the officials had not been trailing Andre Hainault's controversial tackle right before the half, it would had made a difference.
United coaches, players and fans are right to be upset about the no-call from Ricardo Salazar. I myself admitted openly on Twitter that he made the wrong call, but to understand how he made the wrong call, you need to analyze the course of events. In doing so, I believe that most will come to understand that Salazar made the right call based on what he saw happen.
Here's the facts.
It was a counter attack break. Since these plays typically catch the defense off-guard, it stands to reason that the officials are caught of guard. Salazar is always going to be behind a play like that and even the fittest linesman will struggle to be on a even line with a break. The replay we all say on TV, and everyone involved likely looked at after the match was from a camera on the end line looking directly at the play.
From that angle we clearly saw Raphael Augusto and Andre Hainault collide shoulder to shoulder and Augusto's arm brace across Hainault's chest. From that angle, we saw Hainault lock his arm down over Augusto's and shift his weight against him, causing both players to go to ground. Hainault did not scissor kick Augusto as some have tried to claim. Yes their legs entangled and yes it looked bad but that had everything to do with momentum and how they fell.
From that replay angle, it's a clear foul. It's outside the box and either it's a yellow or red card. We can debate until the end of time if either of the Dynamo players to either side of the play could have recovered had Augusto broken through with control, but it doesn't matter.
Salazar couldn't see Hainault's arms. He saw two players go shoulder to shoulder and two players crash over one another. It wasn't a violent tackle, thus from his angle, it looked like a hard, but fair, 50/50 challenge. I'm sure some will scream at me for daring to defend Salazar, but look that's what happened. I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, I'm laying out the facts.
Salazar was asked about the call by a pool reporter after the match and explained things this way:
"I judged this play as 2 guys coming together and no offense was spotted."
"Based on my angle there was contact by both players and therefore, no offense was identified."
"No, based on my position/angle of the play. It is possible there were other defensive players in the area."
DC United doesn't have to like that one bit, but he's being honest and he made the call based on what he saw. As someone who is brutal on referees, even I have to see the logic in this. After my initial reactions yesterday, as I looked at replays and thought more about the play, what happened made sense. Here's the tweet I wrote about it during the halftime break:
On the no-call by Salazar. He may not have seen Hainault lock his arm down as he was trailing the play. The bodies blocked his view. #mls— Zach Woosley (@GingeFC) November 11, 2012
My initial indignation towards Salazar was on par with everyone else who'd see the replay, the call was obvious, but it took me a moment to put myself in the referee's shoes and understand what he saw.
It comes back to luck. Had the referee or linesman had a better view, DC United gets a dangerous free kick and maybe Hainault gets sent off (though from everything we've heard, that would not have been the case). The Dynamo got lucky but even if Salazar made the wrong call, he made the right call based on the information presented to him in that split second during the play. Plenty of other referees would have made a call in that moment based on what they presumed to have happened, Salazar made the call based on what he saw happen.
That's his job and while you might not like the call, he did the right thing. That's all we can really ask of a referee and for all the verbal beatings we give them, they at least deserve the be applauded when they do the right thing. I often forget that replays are in slow motion and from angles the referee didn't have, it's easy to feel like an expert when we have technology to aide us in reviewing a play. In that split second on the pitch, a referee has to make a call based on what he sees. Personally, I want referees making calls based on the facts they have, rather than making calls based on what they guessed must have, or might have, happened.
I stand by my feelings going in to the match that there is no referee working in MLS today I'd rather have in charge of a match than Ricardo Salazar. That doesn't mean he's a great referee, but he's the best one USSF currently has.