After Harvey booking, should MLS employ replay?


Thursday, May 5, 2011
Posted: 3 p.m.
By Dave Zeitlin Contributor

WAYNE, Pa.All at once, the crowd hollered, the coaches jumped out of their seats and Philadelphia Union players implored the referee to reconsider.

The proof was right there for all to see. Up on the big screen, opposite the River End at PPL Park, a replay showed that Union left fullback Jordan Harvey did hardly anything to even warrant a foul late in the first half of last Saturdays game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

But it didnt matter how obvious it was to nearly 20,000 people. Referee Mark Geigers decision to show Harvey a red card was final. So, too, was the ejection and one-game suspension that came with the card.

And just like that, the only person whos played in every Union game in franchise history was forced to stay home as the team departed for Portland for Fridays 10:30 p.m. contest against the Timbers.

Its really easy to point fingers at referees and I tend not to do that, said Harvey, about as diplomatically as he could muster. In this instance, the ref thought he saw something. I personally know I wasnt being malicious or trying to hurt a player, so thats whats disappointing about this. Overall, my experience with officials has been good. You can look at my track record. I dont get many cards. I dont foul many people. Im a clean player. So thats the disappointing part that he didnt realize that and I was kind of the scapegoat.

In the past few days, rumors have been swirling about whether the Union would appeal the red card so Harvey could play against Portland. Following Saturdays game, even team manager Peter Nowak indicated that he would try to seek some justice.

But in reality, there was nothing the Union could do. Shortly before leaving for Portland on Wednesday, Nowak explained that league rules stipulate that red cards can only be overturned in the case of mistaken identity.

And this was not a case of mistaken identity. It was just a bad call, one that could be very damaging but one that must stand.

The question is this: Should it be that way?

More to the point: Much like the NFL, should there be instant replay in the other football?

I still believe we should find a way to not only appeal but change these kind of things, Nowak said. Its a human thing to make an error like this, but I think it should be something we can reviewnot only Jordans case but many things in the past six, seven weeks. Team managers, coaches, we cant do anything about it. I think its a good time to look at it again.

Of course, complaining about referees is about as old as drinking beer at ballgames, and far less useful. When you cover enough sporting events, you tend to notice that most fans seem to think that the whistle should never be blown if its against their own team.

Yes, it seems MLS refs, who are governed by the United States Soccer Federation, have been under fire this season with David Beckham, arguably the biggest star in the league, recently saying that it are the refs who are, in fact, becoming the stars of MLS.

But as Nowak says, referees are only human and are bound to make mistakes. Which is where the instant replay argument comes in.

In our league, the fourth official, as Ive always said, is a shrink for both coaches, Nowak said. In this case, having him monitor games from a different perspective would be better.You only need 15 seconds to review it. I think this kind of stuff will keep the fourth official not concentrating on both benches. That could change the game.

So why cant Major League Soccer follow in the footsteps of other major sports and use video replay to review certain plays?

Nowak admitted soccer has never been very good at adapting to new technology, in part because its a sport for the masses. But this could be changing. Just this week, FIFA unveiled plans that could lead to goal-line technology for the 2014 World Cupan announcement that came on the heels of a marred Chelsea-Tottenham contest that featured a goal that video evidence later showed never crossed the goal line.

If FIFA can do it, so can MLS. And if goals can be reviewed, so should suspensions.

I believe we still need to be more open to this kind of stuff, Nowak said. Because the game is so fast, coming up and down, we have to find a way to not change the game completelyI dont believe in replays like in the National Football Leaguebut we can improve this stuff, especially on major calls. For our purposes, it would be good to try. Why not?

Yes, why not? It could slow the game down, sure. But its hard to complain too vehemently against something that, at its core, would make the sport fairer.

We have the official on the sideline, so I think its a great idea, Harvey said. I think for certain calls, like maybe a red card, its probably a good idea. Id like to see it used in maybe U.S. Open Cup games to try it out. But yeah I definitely think theres room for some of that.

Harvey will have more time to think about this as he watches his teammates take the field without him, nearly 3,000 miles away.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for and writes a weekly Union column for You can e-mail him at

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