In this photoset:
- Two of the most talented, skilled players the US has produced
- doing shitty, unsportsmanlike things
- in moments of extreme frustration after games full of aggressively physical defense and wild challenges
- which had not been called by the refs
This is not to argue what Deuce or Pinoe did was ok or justified. Nor did they ‘get away with it’ entirely. The officials didn’t see Dempsey’s nut shot in real time, but the league handed him a two game suspension later that week. Rapinoe took her cheap shot in full view of the officials, while the referee was running towards the play — somehow, she only got a yellow, but we’ll see if the league takes further action.
The point is OFFICIATING MATTERS. Lax or inconsistent officiating corrodes the ability of skilled players to use their skills. It destroys the continuity of gameplay, and it fosters frustration, resentment, and bad sportsmanship, no matter one’s temperament. Dempsey may make a pill of himself about MLS officiating, but he (and others, for example Nagbe) are often bulldozed without consequences, putting not only their paychecks but their wins and their health at risk. By the point in the Reign-Breakers game where Pinoe committed this foul, Avant’s only successful strategy for defending Pinoe had been to body check her; she had stopped trying to defend straight up. Pinoe had also take a couple other hard hits, including at least one from behind. After 80 minutes of that, Pinoe’s patience snapped.
Again, that doesn’t excuse these retaliatory actions. But it does mean the NWSL (after deciding on an adequate suspension for Rapinoe) and the MLS both need to instruct officials to tighten up and/or offer better training and officiating clinics, and make a clear statement: this isn’t the direction any serious league can allow gameplay to take.