Category Archives: Referee

Refereeing A Semifinal

If you’re a soccer referee, you love, love, love to be assigned to a semifinal game of a big tournament.

The players play their hearts out knowing that a victory can mean the difference between first or fourth place. The coaches are out of their skin, living vicariously through the players. The spectators… they’re simply insane.

The referee and assistants have to be an alert force that is simultaneously impartial and judicial.

I arrived early Sunday morning for my 8 a.m. game thinking I was going to be Assistant No. 1 for the AYSO Section 1 Area R U-14 Boys semifinal game between Corona 1 and Moreno Valley 2. Through a clerical error, I was handed the assignment after the scheduled referee was determined to be unavailable.

I had half-thought about the possibility of this happening on the drive to the game, and remembered the USSF training mantra: Be Ready For Anything. I also probably said to myself, ‘Nah. He’ll be there. He’s always there,’ cause dude’s always there. Well, he wasn’t. And I was at least half-ready.

We check in the teams on the field. It’s cold. The players are still wearing sweatshirts, gloves and beanies, and I make them remove it all. “I’m not wearing (a beanie),” I say to a coach/parent who asks, “Why not?” I do allow the goalkeepers to wear their skull caps, however. I’m not completely cruel.

The game is fast-paced from my first whistle and I don’t call for a foul until after the first goal is scored in the fifth minutes. I’m talking some really good soccer here. Lots of control, passing and build-up play from both sides.

Corona 1 starts to dominate possession after their first goal and looks to strike again behind its two tall forwards, No. 10 and No. 12.

No. 12 delivers the pass upon which the first goal is scored and applies the finishing touch to Corona 1’s next two goals before Moreno Valley 2 finally got one back.

Halftime arrives after 35 minutes and my AR tells me of a parent who is creeping near the goal line, yelling technical advice on Moreno Valley 2’s sideline. I have to act upon this information and decide to speak to Moreno Valley 2’s coach. I simply tell him that all coaches must stay within 10 yards of the halfway line and all spectators must stay between the 18s. He responds positively to that.

The second half begins and Corona 1 immediately attacks through No. 10. Trailing the play up the left wing, both No. 10 and a Moreno Valley 2 defender go down in what looks like a wreckless tackle from behind. No. 10 pops back up, however, and says that the Moreno Valley 2 defender “got all ball.” “He didn’t foul you?” I ask. “Nah. All ball,” he said. I change my call to a dropped ball, told No. 10 that I appreciated his honesty and play resumed.

Later, I initially (and very briefly) signaled for a goal before my AR raised his flag for an infraction he saw in the goal area. I raced over and was advised to disallow the goal because of goalkeeper interference; the goal scorer was just “four or five feet” from the keeper and had obstructed the GK’s line of sight directly preceding the pass that led to the goal. I had not seen that infraction, and trusted my AR. “No goal!” I bellowed, swinging my arms out in front of me in an ‘X’. Corona 1’s sideline blows its top. Stay calm and keep refereeing.

Corona 1 adds another goal on a counter-attack and the teams settle upon a 4-1 final. Moreno Valley 2 players sulk off the field. The team’s best player stays down at the top of the penalty area for several moments before I walk over and tell him how well I thought he played. I perked up enough to walk away.

After the team handshakes, all the players came to shake my hand or give me a fist bump (which I prefer) and both coaches were respectful — even the one I reprimanded for language in the first half. In between, about five or six assistant coaches and parents came to shake my hand.

I had thought I was going to assistant on a big match but it turned out I was the one in charge. I managed the game, its players and agents, and proved up to the task.

Next time, next year, I’ll be a little more than half-ready.


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Terminating A ‘Friendly’

As a relatively new referee — I’m in my ninth MONTH as a U.S. Soccer Federation referee — I’m still experiencing a lot of stuff for the first time.

On Sunday, I terminated a ‘friendly’ game between two local U-11 girls club teams in the second half after the visiting team’s coach kept threatening to take his girls off the field if I didn’t call the game more evenly, or “it’s gotta be 50-50,” is the way he put it, over and over.

Now, I had no affiliation with either team, but was being paid by the home team to work the game. I had never met either coach, didn’t have a relative playing in the game or otherwise have any meaningful relation to anyone involved.

It’s pretty standard procedure, overall. Even so, the visiting coach was not happy with the game I was calling. And he let me know it, over and over.

And after I called his team for offside (she was obviously in an advanced position) he went ballistic and said, “Are you sh*tting me?”

I stopped the game. Told him that if that was to be the way he was going to conduct himself, he might as well take his team and go home.

“You want me to take my team off the field?” he asked.

“Dude. I do not care.”

He told his girls to leave the field and I blew my whistle signaling the end of the game. His team lost, 1-0, but two of his girls said, “Thanks anyway, ref.” Several of the home team’s player shook my hand and told me they thought I did a good job.

Whatever. The tale of two sides, ya know? I was happy to work the game, even if it was played in mostly steady rain.

It’s just unfortunate this coach had to be first-class douche and ruin in for everyone.

Oh, and club sidelines… what a disgrace to decorum and sportsmanship. Those parents should be ashamed of themselves, and frightened about what they’re teaching their children.

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Locomotion Monday

Locomotion 2012 wrapped up, for me, with my 9:30 a.m. arrival.

I was scheduled to be a standby for 10 a.m., and then work championship games at 12 and 2 p.m.

Well, there actually was enough referees to cover all the games at 10 a.m. so I ended up goofing off with Patrick Weidhase, the sophomore captain of the frosh soccer team at Riverside King. He had to retrieve several of my errant passes.

11 a.m. rolled around and it became time to get ready for my first game, a Girls U14 championship between Chino Hills and Corona at noon.

I was Francisco Davila’s senior assistant, and worked the opposite sideline from Pablo Sanchez.

Davila insisted that we wear pink jerseys for the game. So much so that he brought jerseys for everyone. I now own a pink referee jersey. It’s actually very nice.

The game was competitive, more than the final scoreline indicated. Chino Hills won, 4-0, but not after taking Corona’s best shot.

I was then tasked to referee the a Boys U10 championship at 2 p.m. This game was going to be contentious (all U10 games are) and I knew it was going to be a headache before I even looked at either team.

Surprisingly, the action was great until I called for a dangerous play infraction against a Palos Verdes team that was already winning 3-0 10-plus minutes into the second half.

On the play, the boys are on their butts with the ball between one’s legs. There’s no dangerous contact happening and the players quickly resolve and resume playing while one voice on PV’s sideline screams for a call.

“It’s gotta go both ways referee!”

“So that wasn’t dangerous?”

“What were you looking at?”

I stopped the game. Look at the coach and tell him there was no infraction. He tells me  the same three things he just said. I tell him that if I have to stop the game again to talk to him, there’ll be consequences.

That’s when a rather large Hispanic male says, “You need to be doing a better job.”

“Are you a coach?” I ask him. No response. “Keep it to yourself then.”

Palos Verdes won the game easily, 4-1, and the coach thanked me after the game and told me I did a great job. Sometimes that actually happens.

Fun stuff. And I got a pair of L.A. Galaxy tickets to the MLS opener for doing it.

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Locomotion Sunday

A little sore, but imminently ready, I refereed two more games on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012.

And I have to say, I’m really having fun at this year’s Locomotion tournament. The games have been great, and I haven’t had to show a single card through five games. Oh, and I’m getting the opportunity to work with some tremendous referees.

The two games I worked on Sunday, a U12 girls and a U14 girls, were both extremely competitive contests with spots in the championship round on the line.

I was specially assigned to the first game, Corona vs. Chino Hills, because of sideline issues stemming from CH’s previous game. Apparently, CH’s coach had to be sent off after their sideline was warned numerous times. I was told this going in, and was given the intruction to to levee punishment if I deemed in necessary. Fortunately, I didn’t have to take such action, and after Corona scored a couple of early goals, Chino Hills stormed back to tie the game, and then scored the only two goals of the second half to come away with 4-2 victory.

The second game was mine to officiate, and it pitted Beverly Hills (a team I refereed on Saturday) against Palmdale. The two teams played to a scoreless halftime, and if not for a sramble in the goal area that led to the first goal, the game probably would have ended in a scoreless draw. As it was, Palmdale was able to find the back of the net, and Beverly Hills was not, and so went their championship fortunes.

Among the referees I’ve worked with include Riverside’s Pablo Sanchez. A local middle school principal, Sanchez is among the funniest, most willing-to-laugh referees I’ve ever met. Hardly a serious moment has been had while we work together, which makes even the most intense game extremely enjoyable, and teaming with him has definitely made this weekend more fun than it probably should be.

Also, the burritos today were fan-freaking-tastic. So there’s that.

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Locomotion Saturday

Now in its 18th season, Locomotion is the largest AYSO tournament in Southern California. It’s hosted by AYSO Region 47 (Riverside) and is held annually during President’s Day weekend.

This is my third Locomotion, and this year is a little different. Instead of being a “floating” referee, or working which ever games are open, I’ve been assigned to a three-man team representing one of our region’s Boys U14 teams.

So… I refereed three games on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2012, including a high-intensity Boys U14 game that was played under the lights with start time of 6 p.m.

Having recently passed one of two Advanced referee assessments, I was placed in charge, with veteran referees Pablo Sanchez and Michael Orr as my assistants.

The game pitted Corona (in blue) vs. Palos Verdes (in red), with first place in their pool on the line heading into their final pool-play game on Sunday.

The match was even until Corona #15 headed in a centering pass from his teammate on the wing. On the play, #15, standing outside the goal are, headed a high-arching shot that eluded Palos Verdes’ goalkeeper and dipped under the cross bar.

Seemingly awakened, Palos Verdes equalized in the 24th minute when #4 tapped in a loose ball in front goal. PV may have celebrated a bit too much because Corona, undeterred, score just one minute later as #9 scored after some great combination in the attacking third.

Corona led 2-1 at halftime, but looked a little flat coming out of the break. It wasn’t until a Corona player shouted, “They’ve picked their energy up!” that his teammates responded, fought for loose balls and scored a pair of back-breaking goals in the 41st and 42nd minutes (the teams play 25 min. halves).

Corona, smelling blood, made a goalkeeper switch and placed their hulking 6-foot, 190-pound backstop at forward. Palos Verdes would take advantage, however, and after a disputed hand-ball in the box by Corona, PV’s #22 finished off the play by finding the back of the net.

If the ball had not been in the “mixer” as it were, and had PV not taken advantage, I think I would have called for a penalty. As it was, PV scored anyway, negating the effect of the non-call.

With time winding down, PV began to take a lot of chances and almost paid dearly. With less than 30 seconds remaining, I whistled for a foul against PV in PV’s goal area (two players went up to head a ball, a PV player lunging akwardly and making contact). Alas, the horn sounded to end the game and rather than inflict more punishment upon PV, I decided to blow the final whistle.

With players all around wondering what had happened, and coaches on both sides about to blow their lids, I said, “Nah. Not tonight.”

Game over. Problem solved.

Now it’s time to hydrate, ice, and prepare for tomorrow.

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Acing My Advanced Assessment

I recently attempted my AYSO Advanced Referee Assessment. It was one of my New Year’s resolutions (see post below) and I aced it, achieving the goal within the first month of 2012.

The game on which I was assessed was a U-14 Boys Semifinal at the AYSO Area N Spring Select playoffs, and pitted San Bernardino vs. Beaumont.

I got off to a fantastic start by forgetting the game cards at the administration booth. I had to run back to grab them; my ARs and my assessor certainly talking about me all the while.

I hustled back and proceeded to into my pre-game. I used a cheat sheet (which my assessor actually liked) but I’ll have to remember to slow down when I speak next time. I felt rushed for some reason.

I then had my ARs perform the field check while I checked the players. That went well, as usual.

I blew the whistle for the game to begin.

10th minute: I call a PK for Beaumont after No. 7 was held and tripped entering the penalty area. His teammate’s kick is saved by San Bernardino’s keeper.

14th minute: San Bernardino marches down the field and after a brief scrum for the ball inside the goal area, No. 11 pounces on a bouncing ball to give his team a 1-0 lead.

28th minute: San Bernardino adds to its lead when No. 12 chases down a long ball, stops, turns and fires a shot from outside the 18 that his teammate calls “sick.”

35th minute: Halftime. No complaints. Though Beaumont’s No. 7 wanted me to keep an eye on San Bernardino’s No. 10. “Will do,” I say.

The game resumes and it’s more of the same; San Bernardino playing long ball onto the feet of their slick forwards.

38th minute: I verbally admonish Beaumont’s No. 14 for taking down San Bernardino’s No. 9 near the goal line but outside the area. “You guys need to calm down. Especially you!” I say to No. 14.

51st minute: Beaumont’s best player is taken down at midfield. Stepped on but successfully able to pass to his left, I call “Keep playing! Advantage!” and put my arms up. The player who receives the pass is then also fouled so I whistle to stop play but the ball and the players were still moving.

I can very clearly see the injured player from the first foul on the ground at a distance of 4-5 yards. After the knuckle-headed players finally stop the ball I ran over to the player and ask if he needs his coach. I repeat. He doesn’t say anything. He then gets up, walks off and says “Man, he stepped on my ankle.”

66th minute: San Bernardino tacks on one more when No. 8 finishes off another long ball by tucking it in the lower right corner of the goal. Beaumont is clearly deflated at this point.

71st minute: I blow my whistle, ending the game. All the players walk off the field, some more quickly than others. The post-game handshakes go off without a hitch, and the coaches, well-behaved throughout, shake my hand and thank me.

In conclusion, I’m actually surprised it was an assessable game. I did award a PK, but I didn’t issue a single card. That’s usually a staple of an assessable game. But then again, maybe I did the job of confronting issues before they escalated; I do think my stern warning to Beaumont’s No. 14 kept him in line.

So, yes. I passed. Didn’t get a single negative mark, in fact.

Maybe I am getting better at this.

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New Year’s Resolutions

I usually shy away from resolutions of any kind (don’t wanna be tied down, ya see?) but maybe this will be cathartic or therapeutic or whatever.

Things I resolve to do in 2012 (listed in no particular order):

— Dominate my baseball fantasy league. It’s never happened, and I’ve never even qualified for the four-team playoffs, but it’s about time I changed all that.

— Start writing a book. I’d love to do a biography, but something with a broader base also could work.

— Practice investigative journalism. There’s a story brewing already.

— Referee more soccer games. I went to referee camp this year but I officiated less than 50 games in 2011. That’s simply not enough. I have to get more assignments, and assessments, if I’m going to get better.

— Obtain my AYSO National Referee badge. The Ken Aston Camp in June will allow me that opportunity, if only I’m invited. Oh, and I still need to be assessed for my Advanced Referee badge in order to become eligible.

— Be able to run faster, longer. I run well, but it looks like I need to prepare and participate in 5Ks and 10Ks if I’m going to have the fitness level needed to advance as a professional referee.

— Be a better soccer coach. After getting off the a 3-0-0 start this season, my patience during practice began to wane as we finished the season 2-3-2. The kids often became too silly, I struggled to reign them in, and drills suffered. Maybe I need to be tougher, or more strict or focused. Or maybe I need better drills. Haven’t figured that one out yet.

Whew. OK. I better stop there before I take on more than I can chew.

Sure, I could write things like, “Be a better husband and father,” but those are concepts I spend time thinking about and practicing every day. Putting it here would be redundant.

I also could write, “Be more awesome,” but again… redundant.

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