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MLS System for Officials Answering Press Questions Is a Joke

Alan Hainkel@@fntncitysoccerContributor IJune 2, 2013

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 14:  Referee Hilario Grajeda (2R) collects the game ball as his team takes the pitch to referee the match between the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes at JELD-WEN Field on April 14, 2013 in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers defeated the Earthquakes 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

As I mentioned on Twitter last weekend, I am the second alternate pool reporter for Sporting KC when it comes to asking officials questions after games at Sporting Park. These reporters have to be designated before the season starts.

When reporters want to ask the referee questions after the game, Major League Soccer, like every other league, has a system by which those reporters can ask those questions.

In the case of MLS, the pool reporters decide what questions they want answered. They can submit up to three questions (with one follow-up), in writing and signed by the primary pool reporter. The host team then has to post the questions inside the officials' dressing room within five minutes of the final whistle. The referee then has 15 minutes to review them before the pool reporter gets to ask the questions and record the interview.

In what seems to be a growing pattern, Sporting KC's match at Sporting Park on Saturday night once again featured at least one controversial call. This marked the third straight Sporting KC match with a questionable decision being made.

First, on May 19 against D.C. United at RFK Stadium, a goal from Ike Opara was ruled out for offside. Replays clearly showed that Opara was not offside. After the match, the linesman who made the call said he had misjudged the play.

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Next, on May 26 against the Houston Dynamo at Sporting Park, referee Drew Fischer awarded a penalty to the Houston Dynamo after a Oriol Rosell tackle on Brad Davis. Replays clearly showed Rosell had gotten the ball and hadn't touched Davis. After conferring with his linesman, Fischer overturned his penalty call and awarded the ball to Sporting KC.

According to pool reporter Steve Brisendine of MLSSoccer.com, Fischer was great about answering questions after the match about what he saw and what his linesman had said to him to convince him to reverse the call.

Finally, on Saturday night against the Montreal Impact at Sporting Park, referee Armando Villarreal awarded a penalty to Sporting KC for Alessandro Nesta dragging down Claudio Bieler from behind at the edge of the penalty area. It appeared from replays that the call was a bit harsh, as it seemed that Bieler was just outside the penalty area when he went down.

In the end, the call was a moot point with Montreal winning the match, but Steve, Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star and I still wanted to know what he saw. We also wanted to ask him about why Montreal coach Marco Schallibaum was ejected from the match at halftime, his second ejection in as many matches at Sporting Park.

Apparently, Steve told us that Villareal said the questions were not posted in the dressing room as required, so he wasn't going to answer them. We asked the team what happened and were told Chris Wyche, the executive VP of stadium operations, said the questions had in fact been posted, but an overzealous member of the cleaning crew may have taken them down.

I think it's ridiculous that when we've done what we're supposed to do, as reporters, the referee can refuse to answer questions that he says were not posted in the dressing room. I trust the team that they were posted more than I trust the official. Who's to say that he didn't take the questions down himself, wad them up into a ball and throw them away? I don't know that he did, but I don't know that he didn't, either.

If we, as reporters, have done what we're supposed to do, the referee should put his big boy pants on and answer the questions. The answers we get are usually vague and full of cliche, but we need both sides of the story.

The league needs to fix this. It's an embarrassment if it doesn't.

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