By: Steve Davis, Pro Soccer Talk
All credit to the United States for finding a way, for three determined rallies from a goal down, for reaching deep into the reserves at the 123rd extraordinary minute to locate that sensational game-winner – and for willing their way into Thursday’s Olympic gold medal match.
But I think we need to address one particular Canadian killer: the strange referee decision to whistle an indirect free kick at a critical juncture, not long after Canada had taken a 3-2 lead.
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What a horrible moment for Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen to make such a highly significant decision, to award an indirect free kick to the United States in the 78th minute, adjudging Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod of time-washing.
And make no mistake, an indirect free kick from 17 yards may not be a gift from the heavens (as a penalty kick might be), but it’s a wonderfully fortuitous turn of events for the attacking team – especially one that is a goal down with 12 minutes remaining.
I’ve watched more professional soccer matches than I can possible count. (Best, ridiculously wild-ass guess: somewhere north of 2,000.) I have never – no exaggeration here, never – seen that called.
I went back and counted. McLeod (pictured above) had the ball in her hands for 11 or 12 seconds; some of that was on the ground, which referees typically wouldn’t count toward the six permitted seconds for distribution. Or that’s what I’d guess. Again, I’ve never seen this be a big issue.
Yes, her 11- or 12-second hold represents a clear, technical violation of the “six second rule,” a law that is violated at least a dozen times in every professional match.
The penalty kick that resulted from the U.S. free kick? I have no problem with that; it was the correct decision. The problem is that it never should have gotten there.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s what my NBC colleague Kyle Martino said of the Canadian ‘keeper kerfuffle:
“My heart goes out to Canadian players, because it was such a tough moment,” Martino said. “To be playing so well, to bring your best game, against the best team in the world. And then to have the game flipped on its end because of a call like that? If I was playing in that game, it would have drove me nuts.”
It really was a heartbreaking moment; no matter your rooting interest, you hate to see something like that weight so heavily into a result.
Steve Davis is the lead writer for NBC’s Pro Soccer Talk. Read more of PST at http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.