Sunday, June 18, 2006

usa 1, italy 1, referee irregularities 2

I've reflected a bit now on the USA-Italy tie in the World Cup. The American team was 1000% more effective than in the Czech debacle (a result that looks even worse given how handily Ghana handled the Czechs on Saturday), actually attacked Italian defenders, played physical defense, and generally acted as if they had a pulse. My main quibble with Bruce Arena is that, with the US down to nine players late and tiring, I would have taken off Brian McBride (a fine player and deserving starter, don't get me wrong) for Eddie Johnson. Johnson's fresh legs would have made him look even quicker during the last 15 minutes of the game and Johnson is the sort of player who might, just might, steal a goal on a solo effort.

And after two games, the US is in a position to get through to the second round, though they'll need help.

But the referee on Saturday, wow. Jorge Larrionda gave a red card to an Italian defender who threw an elbow into McBride's nose in the first half. It was a pretty bad elbow (McBride was bleeding), and a fair call. I was thinking, hey for once refs aren't screwing with the US team in a game with a major power like Italy. But the red cards that Larrionda dropped on Mastroeni and Pope were simply TERRIBLE calls. Mastroeni deserved a yellow for his late tackle. Pope's foul was awfully soft for a yellow, let alone for a second yellow which sent him off.

Larrionda was suspended before the 2002 World Cup right for unspecified irregularities. Italy is in the middle of a major bribery scandal involving referees. Germany also has a refereeing scandal. Can I suggest to FIFA that it reveal what irregularities were present that scratched Larrionda from the 2002 World Cup, and how Larrionda's character was redeemed sufficiently for him to officiate in the 2006 World Cup? Because his officiating simply stunk. The two US red cards were appalling (but disallowing Beasley's goal for McBride's offside was unfortunately the right call) and may have cost the US the chance to win and draw even with Italy, Czech, and Ghana in the group.