Still seething about that Jozy Altidore dive that led to a Toronto penalty kick last weekend? Still laughing about that red card handed to Conor Casey against the Union last year? Go ahead have another look at this vicious attack on Keegan Rosenberry.
Don Garber is hoping to put an end to the criticism that soccer gets for getting big calls wrong. In an interview with Grant Wahl at SXSW in Austin, Garber touched on a host of topics including a new video replay system that appears pretty comprehensive. While there are still key details unknown it appears plays like Altidore's penalty might soon be reviewed in under two minutes.
Garber explained that a new video referee would be stationed on the sideline of games and would have the authority to stop play and examine close calls. Garber cited goals, offside calls leading to a goal and red cards as plays that could be reviewed. However, it was not entirely clear exactly what about those calls can be reversed. He gave an example of a penalty kick that should not have been called, and he spoke about a theoretical red card that was not given out that should have been. It appears as though the new referee will have flexible authority over a number of calls that have frustrated fans over the years. The goal is to have this new system in place after this year's All-Star game.
There will be two things that American fans are accustomed to in their sports video replay universe that will not be in place. There will be no coaches challenges like in the NFL or MLB. The only person with the ability to review plays will be the referee. Also, there will be no video replay shown inside the stadium. This is a decision made by FIFA that Garber hopes will eventually be overturned. After all, the entire purpose of these changes is to improve the experience for the fans, and if we can't see what's going on, that's not much fun.
This replay system could have a more profound impact on the game in a positive way. Soccer suffers greatly for the perception that players dive to encourage calls and the system currently favors this behavior. For example, if a player goes down untouched in the penalty box there is a good chance nothing is called. There's a small chance the player might receive a yellow card which has minimal consequences, and there's a change they get the call which would most likely result in a goal and change the face of the game. The risk reward trade-off here favors the diving behavior. But if there's an all-seeing eye that's more likely to call a penalty, or reverse one, then it should reduce the amount of fake plays that occur in general. This new referee might limit that type of unwanted diving all over the field. That could have a significant benefit for the sport.
Kudos to Don Garber and MLS for being aggressive in using technology to improve the quality of the game. But I wonder if we might prefer a world of dives and referee errors when the result is a meme like this one of Diego Chara and his horrendous flop (and worse call) last weekend.