The most recent MLS matchday saw the replacement referee crisis hit a new level with rampant errors across the league’s games. The issues were so bad that the Professional Soccer Referees Association commented on how the officiating is having major consequences on the table and the quality of the competition.

“This past weekend in MLS, many players and coaches stood up and spoke the truth regarding the impact MLS has created by continuing to use replacement refs,” the PSRA said in a statement. “Points were lost, red cards were incorrectly given while other red cards were incorrectly not given, and ‘stonewall’ penalty kick decisions were missed.”

The PSRA noted that it supported the comments from players and coaches who lamented the replacement referees after matchday four. One of the biggest concerns happened in the Montreal game in Chicago. Montreal head coach Laurent Courtois took offense to many decisions that seemed to go against the Canadian side. Courtois pointed to four decisions which he disagreed with.

“Twenty-two added minutes, red card on the (Chicago) GK that isn’t given. Their third goal came from a corner that shouldn’t have been, their first goal was offside,” Courtois said.

The Montreal game was of particular note because of what happened after the visitors picked up a red card. Leading 3-1 in the 82nd minute, replacement referees sent off Raheem Edwards for an altercation away from the ball. Chicago converted the penalty before scoring two goals in second-half stoppage time.

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MLS players and coaches criticize replacement referee errors

Courtois was not alone in ripping officials this weekend. Charlotte FC manager Dean Smith said the referee on duty missed a “stonewall” penalty against Nashville SC. Charlotte went on to lose the game by one point. Elsewhere, LA Galaxy captain Maya Yoshida embraced his incoming fine for haranguing the officials.

“I’m going to get fined,” Yoshida said. “I hope (PSRA) makes a deal with the league as soon as possible. That’s (a) shame. That’s it.”

Major League Soccer has been hesitant to make a deal with PSRA after the denial of a collective bargaining agreement. Yet, despite the lack of a deal and the apparent criticism, MLS commissioner Don Garber said he was content with the state of officials.

“We have officials that we think are doing a really good job,” Garber said. “Our players think they’re doing a good job. Our coaches think they’re doing a good job. And they’re going to continue to work and in a way that will be supported by PRO until there’s a resolution.”

Those comments came before the most recent MLS matchday. By all accounts, Garber was out of touch with his players and coaches. They have now voiced serious concerns with the officiating. For example, the MLS Players Association issued a ‘fact correction’ to Garber.

“It is grossly inaccurate to say that players think that the current group of referees are doing a ‘good job’,” the MLSPA said.

“In fact, players are very clear that the replacements are under-trained, lack experience and are not nearly at the level that a league of MLS’s stature deserves.


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