Women's US National Team Overcome FIFA's Shortcomings in Victory

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Women's US National Team Overcome FIFA's Shortcomings in Victory
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

USWNT stands for US Women's National Team, but it reads a lot like "US Won't." As in: the US Won't be stopped by FIFA's shortcomings, as witnessed in their triumph over Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The game itself was a bad show due to FIFA, an organization entrusted with overseeing and moderating these classic games, despite the fireworks and drama put on by the players.

The own goal only two minutes into the game should have been enough for the US to hunker down and claim a victory, and everything went according to plan. Until the 65th minute, that is, when things took a nearly fatal turn for the US.

The call on Rachel Buehler was questionable. Yes, it looked to be a 50/50 ball, but in the heat of the moment in a play that close the goal you have to think the ref will side with the offensive player. Because it was in the box then, reason has to follow that a Red Card must be given in conjunction with a Penalty Kick.

Hope Solo stepping up to stop the first PK was splendid and should have been a momentum changer, but the ref decided she should get a yellow card. Presumably the card was for her complaining to a ref about the call on another player for Encroachment (leaving the line before the ball was kicked).

And that's one problem with the beautiful game: refs.

When refs start dictating the outcome of a game of this magnitude in any sport with ridiculous calls like the yellow on Solo, then you know you have a problem. Couldn't the ref have let the blocked PK stand, since that was how it should have played out?

Instead, Marta stepped up and took another PK. You can't expect a goalie—no matter how good—to have an excessively high percentage of blocked PKs. The second kick never should have been awarded.

It got worse later on with Brazil's go-ahead goal, as Marta Maurine was clearly offside when she set up the score. It wasn't a judgment call thing either. She was well beyond the American player furthest back. The refs can blow a whistle AND give a yellow card for a trivial rule (Encroachment) but can't get one of—if not the—most hallowed rules (offside) in their book correct?

It's an easy fix. Get two more line judges so that among the four of them they're covering less space. Getting into position with the back player has to be a priority, and one player on each side running the length of the field back and forth just isn't working.

The second problem that the game highlighted was time stoppage. Erika went down late in the game with what seemed to be an injury, only to spring up just in time to avoid being carried out on the stretcher.

Why doesn't the clock stop when the ref stops the play? If the ref stops the play for an injury the clock should stop, which should reduce such time-wasting tactics. The clock shouldn't stop for corners, throw-ins, free kicks or goal kicks. 

Adding stoppage time doesn't compensate for lost time because it's not of equal value. How is it equal for a team to have a two-on-one break where Team B goes down with a fake injury, squandering Team A's chance to score at that moment? Adding three minutes at the end of the game isn't fair value for that lost opportunity.

It's not that these two solutions will solve everything wrong with the game. They'll definitely help with two of the most glaring problems: refs and stoppage. Despite the disadvantage of playing a man down for nearly 60 minutes, the US still held their own and stormed back, winning 5-3 in PKs in thrilling fashion.

It shouldn't have to come to heroics against France. And USWNT players like Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo won't let it come to that.

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