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PRO seems to be taking harder line with MLS referees

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PRO admits entire referee crew was to blame when Juan Guzman "failed to take the correct action" by issuing a yellow card to Giancarlo Gonzalez when he denied Eddie Johnson a clear goal-scoring opportunity

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

You don't have to be a rules expert to realize that Eddie Johnson had a golden opportunity to score his first goal of the season on Saturday. The D.C. United striker had beaten Giancarlo Gonzalez to a loose ball near the midfield stripe and was streaking in on goal for what appeared to be a one-on-one opportunity. It was the kind of chance that Johnson has made a career out of burying.

Perhaps knowing this, Gonzalez reached out and tugged Johnson back just before he got to the penalty area. The referee immediately blew his whistle and signaled for a foul. Virtually anyone watching knew what was coming next: a red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity, or "DOGSO" for short.

But instead of pulling the obvious red, referee Juan Guzman takes his time before finally reaching into his front pocket for a yellow card. To make matters worse, a fight erupts as United tries to quickly take the free kick. See for yourself:

Quietly and without much fanfare, PRO -- the organization that oversees professional referees throughout MLS, NASL and USL Pro -- has been publicly reviewing incidents like these. Last week, coincidentally, they reviewed another incident involving Gonzalez. This week, they focused on this extremely obvious DOGSO situation.

Although they avoid attempting to climb into Guzman's mind, they make it clear that this situation fit every criteria for DOGSO:

  • The direction of the play - Eddie Johnson is moving towards goal
  • The distance between the offense and the goal - It takes place on the edge of penalty area
  • The likelihood of the player keeping or gaining control of the ball - He is in full control
  • Proximity of both the attacker and defender to the ball - Johnson has the ball at his feet and Gonzalez is behind him
  • The location and number of defenders - There's one other defender but he is too far away to prevent the Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity
  • The opportunity for an obvious attempt on goal - It's obvious as all of the above criteria applies

Simply put: It's about time someone start calling out obvious mistakes like this one. Although it may be too much to ask that the punishments also be made public -- it's worth noting that Kevin Stott, who was in the middle for the previous week's reviewed incident, was relegated to fourth official on Saturday -- this is clearly a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, PRO doesn't seem to be quite as interested in making sure their officials are made to personally answer for their decisions. In what is becoming a trend, Guzman refused to answer a written question from the press following last week's game.

Still, that there is any level of accountability is a positive. One of the most criticized portions of the North American game is the officiating and MLS, in particular, must do everything in its power to show the efforts being made to improve.