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Stoppage in United Match

Overshadowed by D.C. United's second-half collapse and damaging loss Sunday was the controversial decision by referee Baldomero Toledo to stop play so quickly after goalkeeper Josh Wicks went down and then restart the match with a drop ball eight yards from the net.

Listen closely to the first video below: Toledo sounds the whistle while Ryan Johnson's deflected shot is in flight and dipping toward the target.

Referees are not available for interviews but can be handed written questions. So through a DCU spokesman, I asked Toledo why play was stopped and then restarted with a drop ball. He responded by citing the FIFA rule that states: "If, while the ball is still in play, the referee is required to stop play temporarily for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game, the match is restarted with a drop ball."

I followed up by again asking why play was stopped and, if because of injury, why didn't he wait until the sequence ended? He cited another FIFA rule that states the referee stops the match, "if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured."

At the time of the incident, Toledo didn't know how seriously Wicks was hurt; he just knew he was injured, and erred on the side of caution. That decision was in stark contrast to events that unfolded in United's season-opening match at Los Angeles, when, after Devon McTavish and Greg Janicki collided heads and began bleeding profusely, referee Jair Marrufo let play continue.

However, Toledo's decision to blow the whistle with the ball heading toward the target -- not upon Wicks's contact with the ground -- was odd. (In his defense, everything happened very quickly.) The ball did end up in the net, but United's Rodney Wallace, positioned on the goal line, eased up when he heard the whistle.

At the end of the day, the Earthquakes were rewarded for their superior play in the second half and the Wicks situation, which could've prompted a storm of postgame protest by Coach Frank Yallop, was relegated to a sidenote. Perhaps we will learn more about this unusual play later in the week when the USSF's officiating week in review is issued.

What's your opinion?

By Steve Goff  |  September 28, 2009; 3:14 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United , MLS  
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Next: Wicks Out 4-6 Weeks


Safety is paramount. Toledo 1 - 0 Marrufo.

Posted by: EdTheRed | September 28, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I was a little surprised by the timing of his whistle. We discussed it in our section over a beer, and determined the matter to be trifling, as you noted the players stopped playing before the ball dribbled in.

Wow, though, it could have been blunderous...

Posted by: JkR- | September 28, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

no issue with him stopping it and erring on the side of safety. what if he let it continue (and it didn't go in net but was deflected out towards Wicks) and Wicks received an even worse injury?

Posted by: nairbsod | September 28, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

To expand a bit, as an official (okay, a rowing official, not a soccer official), I was taught that the safety of the participants overrides all other considerations. Safety first, then fairness. This holds true whether you're reffing high school freshmen or Olympic-level athletes (I'd say DC spent most of the second half yesterday looking more like the former).

Posted by: EdTheRed | September 28, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I thot the decision was wonky when I watched the match live. But his answers seems to explain it fairly well. In any case, SJ won and DC continued it's descent into mediocrity.

Posted by: tundey | September 28, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

There should be no controversy. It is absolutely the correct decision.

Posted by: jezz | September 28, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

If SJ had lost the game - I would say they have every right to be furious over the call. Since they didn't it's an odd case that deserves debate, but not sure Toledo was really wrong in his decision.

Much like the players and teams, at this point in the campaign you know what you're going to get from all parties. I'm not goign to nitpick all officiating at this point hoping for a drastic change in fortunes just like I won't nit pick the fact that DC United doesn't have any vertical flow in it's game for long stretches and that it's possession is largely lateral at the wrong points of attack and is lacking flank play and central distribution to create much of anything dangerous. The team is what it is right now - 2010 is when it can change.


Need a different role:
and it pains me but Olsen

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | September 28, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I agreed with the Telefutura commentator -- that Toledo thought the ball was headed out of bounds -- or, he had no idea where it was. He might have thought the deflection went in some other direction. There's no way he thought it was still in play above the box nd yet blew the whistle. He's a lousy ref, but he can't be that stupid.

Posted by: fischy | September 28, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

that ball wasn't going to end up in the goal with Wallace there and another defender next to him

Posted by: teo_68 | September 28, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Strange sequence for sure. I've never seen a player in such genuine pain after such little contact.

Posted by: FrancoNiell | September 28, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | September 28, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The only significant thing that happened here was the injury to Wicks. San Jose made a big deal about it because they felt screwed over the earlier call (which was their approach to every single call for the rest of the game). Move on, nothing to see here.


Grant Wahl put this link up on Twitter:

Marathon-Toluca has been postponed due to the political unrest in Honduras. In last year's CCL, Houston's game with Firpo was delayed because of a hurricane and ended up taking place in late November. If that's a guide, we'll probably be waiting a long time to find out whether we go through or not.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | September 28, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I was at the game and had seats near midfield. Having seen the TV highlights since, I'd like to know most of all WTF Baldo was thinking when he carded Pontius. That was one of the most atrocious calls I have ever seen.

The Wicks situation was odd, but his explanation makes sense. Even if the game result were different, it's hard to imagine a team with nothing at stake would make a major stink over what happened after the whistke.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | September 28, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

something unrelated, reading around different teams pages and I stumble onto this...
from FC Dallas

"Join the ranks of our Supporter's Group for the last game for only $10! With this special offer, you'll receive a ticket to the Saturday, October 17 regular season finale at Pizza Hut Park. Included with your ticket is a FREE 16 oz. beer."

BARRA BRAVA and DCU im looking at your direction...
impress me...

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | September 28, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Not to kick a guy when he is down and dislocated...but...

I would like to know why Wicks was charging after a corner kick that was heading past the penalty spot.

Posted by: Tweaked | September 28, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I think only EdTheRed gets it: Goff is trying to rile you people up and get out your pitchforks and torches over the lack of a whistle when two of your defenders went down back in Week One. Usually you Beltway-types go for that kind of manipulation.

One main difference is that most Center Referees (myself included) will stop play for an injured keeper much quicker than for another player, although yes US Soccer said appearant head injuries should also call for an immediate whistle...

Posted by: EricB1 | September 28, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Dislocating a shoulder hurts like hell, and unless the victim is unusually stoic, everyone around knows. Toledo stopped play because he knew that something was seriously wrong with Wicks, and he knew that a downed player in the Penalty Area during a corner kick (when there is typically a high concentration of players - 15 in this case) is a serious danger to the downed player.

The ball probably wasn't going to end up in the goal with two defenders waiting for it by the back post. Best not to risk players saftey.

Posted by: mason08 | September 28, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

So what's the deal with Wicks, anyway? Is he OK to continue playing or out for the season? Shouldn't the MRI have been done by now (or is the doggone machine being used by some Redskin player with a bruised pinkie toe)?

Posted by: Juan-John | September 28, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

"...Included with your ticket is a FREE 16 oz. beer."

BARRA BRAVA and DCU im looking at your direction...
impress me...

That's it? One 16 oz. beer? Barra Brava would let you lie under the keg at any game. Color me impressed already -- FC Dallas has nothing to teach.

Posted by: -rke- | September 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Toledo had a straight-on view of Wicks. He probably heard the injury, saw Wick's face, and "felt his pain" in an instant, going straight to whistle.

Can't say I wouldn't be annoyed if the call was against us -- especially if it were a game-changer. But that's just an emotional reaction. Rationally, the call looks defensible.

Posted by: -rke- | September 28, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

That's it? One 16 oz. beer? Barra Brava would let you lie under the keg at any game.

Posted by: -rke-

That sounds painful.

Posted by: Reignking | September 28, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

1. WTF is Wicks doing near the top of the area if he is not certain he will catch or clear the ball?

2. The whistle happens more quickly in that situation because a 'keeper is down. It may be an unwritten rule via referee discretion, but it's there.

3. Total inconsistency in refereeing throughout the league should be seriously addressed.

Posted by: inzzo79 | September 28, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

toledo seems to be focused only on wicks and not really paying attention to the trajectory of the ball, which appears to be heading to field goal territory with the deflection. toledo seems to be intently watching wicks until he decided to blow the whistle, so can't complain about the call.

what i'd rather complain about is how DC can fall apart against one of the worst teams in the league at home in a must win game, even if it seems like they were getting favorable calls.

Posted by: joe_hill | September 28, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely the right call. The referee could see that Wicks was seriously injured before the shot was taken - and that is when the play stops, not a second later when he gets the whistle to his lips.

Posted by: Senor_Funk | September 28, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Watching live it seemed like a strange instant whistle, but then again, Toledo is probably super-sensitive to injury situations since the problems earlier in the year.

More worthy of question is the ridiculous yellow given to Pontius for "simulation"...

Posted by: edgeonyou | September 28, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The only thing MLS refs done this year in this league is Toledo's call to stop the game. 100% correct. That would be the way to raise ur profile.

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | September 28, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Good call by Toledo. The ball may have been headed (slowly) toward the goal, but the line was covered. San Jose may have lost an opportunity if the clearance wasn't complete, but a sloppy clearance is only going to result in a swarm of players around an injured keeper on the ground. If someone fell/stepped on Wicks in the ensuing scramble the match would have gone completely out of control, in addition to the possibility of further injury.

Posted by: Mongoose714 | September 28, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

bad call, a home team call, no way he knew the goalie was hurt that quickly.

Posted by: GeneWells | September 28, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I think by the way Wicks went down you could tell it was bad and Toledo had the right to blow the whistle immediately. However, I'm not convinced that Wallace could have cleared that ball off the line. It came right down at a steep angle just below the crossbar. Can't say I blame SJ for complaining. DCU is lucky it didn't make a difference in this game.

Posted by: spata2 | September 28, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Non issue, in my opinion. No way that ball was going if the whistle doesn't blow. Wallace was right there.

Posted by: DEFPOTEC1 | September 28, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Toledo was correct in his decision to blow the whistle. He waited until he could see the trajectory of the ball and that it was headed towards a United defender who was going to clear it. In this case, the drop ball was the correct restart. The United defence ended up clearing the ball off the drop ball rather than from the corner kick. Justice was served.

Posted by: Cavan9 | September 29, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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