The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) released a statement today regarding the 84th minute penalty decision by referee Margaret Domka in the May 25 match between the Portland Thorns and Seattle Reign. The penalty decision, converted by Thorns forward Christine Sinclair past Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo, would eventually decide the match, marring what was probably Seattle’s best performance of the season.
“After a pass is made from Christine Sinclair to Allie Long, referee Margaret Domka witnessed Seattle Reign defender Kristen Meier hold Allie Long inside the penalty area to prevent her from gaining possession of the ball and called a penalty kick. The available video evidence does not show this hold to have significantly impacted Long’s ability to play the ball prior to being cleared by the Seattle defense, and play should have been allowed to continue.”
While the decision does not change the result of the match, it does confirm the questionable nature of the decision (I was standing just in front of the play on the end line and did not see enough contact, if any, to warrant a penalty).
Additionally, the NWSL will announce any sanctions against players and coaches for post-match comments regarding the officiating at the end of the week, following a review and appeals process, according to Cascadia Soccer Wire’s Liviu Bird, who submitted an inquiry requesting for a statement from Domka. There were several post-match comments that will likely receive increased scrutiny:
Portland Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone:
“I think the people in green missed a good game tonight. I think there was a lot of confusion on the field, what was a foul, what wasn’t a foul, what’s a card, what’s not a card. That adds to the physical play when there’s confusion on the field with the players.”
Seattle Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo:
“Unfortunately, Portland didn’t earn the victory and I think that’s what’s most disappointing for our team. They didn’t earn it. Dubious call. Referee gives it up. That’s really all I’ve got to say.”
Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey:
“The referees are a joke. Next question.”
Harvey also took to Twitter following the match, further revealing her frustration, “Watched replays over and over. Still doesn’t get clearer!!! I have a hard time with this one!! #confused”
While the quality of the refereeing throughout the league has been questioned by coaches, players, and fans alike, either privately or publicly, it is unlikely to change in the near future. Questionable refereeing decisions are simply part of the human element of the game and there were several questionable decisions during this match that disrupted the flow of play, as well as in matches throughout this inaugural NWSL season.