U.S. wins 3-2... except we don't! Soccer needs a replay official for game-changing plays

When the player of the match is the referee, something has gone badly wrong. And that’s the case with today’s U.S.-Slovenia World Cup match.

I don’t know whether ref Koman Coulibaly is crooked or incompetent or both. But he stole two points from the U.S.. Several U.S. players were taken down inside the box today and awarded no penalty kicks. One U.S. player was given a yellow card for supposedly touching the ball when he was merely struck in the head with the ball. And the ref somehow managed to “see” something on the U.S.‘ game-winning third goal, on which several U.S. players near the net were being bear-hugged by Slovenian defenders, that no one else outside Slovenia saw. He disallowed the winning goal for no apparent reason.

Soccer is a very low-scoring game, and that gives refs tremendous power. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are constant rumors about refs on the take. (And the U.S. has been victimized by soccer refs for many years, perhaps because the rest of the world doesn’t like us. We were robbed of victory against Italy in the 2006 World Cup. And we were robbed of a penalty kick against Germany in the 2002 World Cup when a German player seemingly knocked the ball out of his goal with his arm.)

Given a ref’s ability to alter the outcome of games, there absolutely should be instant replay for key moments, like a disallowed goal or a goal that might not have gone in or a penalty that results in a player being ejected from a game.

With so many cameras recording the game, can’t we take a few minutes to ensure that the key calls in a game are correct? Shouldn’t soccer football use the U.S. football challenge system in which coaches can challenge a few critical plays. Challenged plays are decided not by referees on the field but by referees in the replay booth. Referee decisions stand unless the replay official finds conclusive evidence to overrule the on-field decision.

This would ensure that all camera angles are studied on game-changing plays. It would also greatly reduce the power of crooked and incompetent refs from determining the outcome of a game.

Today’s inexcusable decision to disallow the third U.S. goal could end up booting the U.S. from the World Cup. And 99% of people watching the game would agree the decision was atrocious. It’s insane to use a system that allows one referee dictatorial, unquestioned power to make such horrible calls.

Posted by James on Friday, June 18, 2010