The Philadelphia Union have been subject to several questionable calls by referees in their first two games of the 2015 MLS season. In week one against Colorado Rapids, there were the two potential penalty calls against Fernando Aristeguieta and Vincent Nogueira, the hand ball against Dillon Serna, and the red-card worthy play against Andrew Wenger.
This week, there was the penalty awarded to Real Salt Lake's Luke Mulholland that caused the game to end in a draw and cost the Union two points and their first win of the season. In light of all of these blunders, the Sons of Ben issued an open letter to Commissioner Don Garber, President Mark Abbott and VP of Player Personnel Todd Durbin.
The purpose of the letter was to voice concerns the supporters' group has had with the leagues officiating in recent weeks.
Major League Soccer is not a flimsy, fly-by-night operation. It is a professionally run organization with multi-million dollar player and sponsor contracts. The quality of play on the pitch has increased exponentially in the last decade. Why has the quality of officiating not kept pace?
The letter goes on to highlight the questionable plays I mentioned above, in addition to referee Allen Chapman's liberal awarding of penalty kicks. For those who are unaware, Chapman has awarded five penalty kicks in seven games to Real Salt Lake, while awarding two to opposing teams.
The letter goes on to talk about the lack of quality in refereeing and the need for an apology to the Union organization and fans.
Commissioner, it is plain to see that in order for MLS to take its rightful place with the other professional leagues, the officiating must be world-class as well. Anything less than that is embarrassing and reinforces the stereotypes that people like Jurgen Klinsmann continue to perpetuate.
What are our expectations? We expect MLS to acknowledge, for the second straight week, that the officiating has cost our club, the Philadelphia Union, two points. Our owners, coaches, players and fans deserve an apology. At this juncture, anything less than that is unacceptable. We look forward to your immediate response.
Obviously no referee at any level is perfect and mistakes will always be made. But it does seem that MLS officiating has been a real issue that needs to be addressed moving forward. In a growing league full of very talented players, it is a shame when a referee becomes the main focus of the game due to poor calls. It is even worse when those calls cost any team a potential victory. It is not a good practice to blame the officials for a team losing, however, the penalty call against the Union in Saturday's game was among the worst call in recent memory.
The Sons of Ben bring up very valid points and MLS would do well to address these issues moving forward. MLS is doing their fans a serious disservice by allowing referees to alter the quality of play with less than quality calls and this goes for all teams in MLS. The Union may have been the victim of poor calls for two consecutive weeks, but it lowers the overall quality of play in this league to allow these types of issues to continue moving forward.