MLS Soccer

Sounders paid steep price for iffy calls

One of the frustrations of soccer is that its punishment so often doesn’t fit the crime.

A team can be starting a dangerous attack that comes to a head-over-heels halt when a defender dumps an attacker at midfield. The punishment? The offense gets to put the ball back in play right where it was, but this time with the defense safely back behind the ball. That’s a fine the defense is more than willing to pay — like a parking ticket less than the prevailing parking rate.

Then there’s the other kind of injustice, the kind where the punishment is greater than the crime. The Seattle Sounders were on the unhappy end of a couple of those Saturday in their 2-1 loss to Vancouver.

Actually, the Sounders can — and did — make the case that there might have been no fouls at all, given that one call was flat-out wrong, and the other was in an area gray enough that it could have gone either way. But in neither case were the Whitecaps in especially goal-dangerous position when the fouls were called. And those calls inevitably led to the PKs that were Vancouver’s margin of victory.

In the first case, Christian Bolanos chased a ball down the right side of the penalty area with defender Joevin Jones hot on his heels. Replays don’t clearly show if those heels were clipped, but Bolanos went down — and referee Mark Geiger awarded the PK.

“I think there’s no contact.” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said Tuesday. “… But I can understand from a referee’s perspective, he sees it a little bit differently depending on the angle that you have, etc. I can see that.”

In the second case, a long pass was lofted into the top left portion of the penalty area, with Blas Perez in pursuit on an angle away from the goal. Center back Chad Marshall went down to sweep the ball away, as Perez seemed to lean into Marshall.

“It’s a footrace with Perez,” Marshall said. “I go to ground there. I think without the contact initiated by him that I get to the ball. I think that hip throws me off, and I don’t get there. I haven’t seen the replay there. I probably need to be smarter and stay on my feet and not let the ref have to make that decision.”

Geiger made the decision to call the foul and to show Marshall a yellow card.

It was the third time in the Sounders’ eight MLS seasons that they have faced two penalty kicks in a game.

On Tuesday, an weekly video feature that dissects controversial calls concluded neither call was correct.

“I think (Marshall) put the referee into a position where the referee was able to make a decision like that: is it a PK, is it not a PK,” Schmid said. “I think if you watch all the games this weekend you could probably see 10 slide tackles that are very similar, and maybe 50 percent of them get called as fouls, and 50 percent are ‘No, he got the ball, play on.’ But when you put the referee in a position where he can make that choice, obviously it’s not the best place to be.”


Schmid said the Sounders will make a decision regarding former U.S. national team forward Herculez Gomez this week. Gomez trained with the Sounders last week but departed over the weekend. … The Sounders return to training Wednesday. Schmid said the emphasis will be on crossing, finishing and building out of the back.