CARSON, Calif. — First-year Real Salt Lake Coach Jeff Cassar is not a guy who complains about officiating. Before Saturday night, that is.
Following his team's 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center, Cassar came to the postgame interviews with a picture on his cell phone. A picture of LA's Juninho kicking RSL defender Chris Wingert in the eye. It happened in the 85th minute in the box in front of the Galaxy's goal. And right in front of referee Silviu Petrescu, who signaled play on as Wingert lay on the ground.
“That's a foul,” Cassar told reporters, while holding the phone. “Chris wasn't putting his head down low to get kicked in the face. It's right there.”
Wingert was sporting the beginnings of a black eye after the game, and he was mystified by Petrescu's non-call.
“Are you kidding?” Wingert told MLSsoccer.com. “Spike in my eye.”
Cassar wasn't ranting and raving. He wasn't blaming the loss on the non-call. He was just more than a bit amazed that no call was made.
“If you put yourself in those positions enough times, you know the calls are going to come,” he said. In this particular case, the referee “chose not to.”
If RSL didn't get the chance to equalize from the spot they were looking for, they also felt hard done by the situation in the Galaxy's goal. Cassar didn't directly raise the issue, but he was clearly frustrated that the lone goal scored in Saturday's game came while RSL midfielder Javier Morales was down on the field after being fouled. Again, Petrescu signaled play on, and LA's Gyasi Zardes scored off a beautiful assist by Marcelo Sarvas.
That play began off the foul on Morales. The referee signaled advantage to RSL, who immediately lost the ball and LA's counter-attacked.
“It was the referee giving us advantage, and then the play breaks down,” Cassar said. “I'll take a free kick 25 yards away from goal anytime. He doesn't go back and give the guy a yellow card — which it clearly was a yellow card. I don't know how many times, off the top of my head, Javi was fouled tonight, but it was a lot of times. When did they get their yellow card? Their first yellow card? Ninety-plus minutes. That doesn't work.”
Cassar acknowledged that the Galaxy were not required to play the ball out of bounds when an opponent is down on the field. However, a dozen minutes after LA's goal RSL had numbers and the ball, his team kicked it out when Galaxy defender Dan Gargan hit the turf at the StubHub Center with an injury — another frustration for Cassar and Real Salt Lake.
“The rule says they don't have to stop. They don't,” he said. “That is what it is. The ref gave an advantage. At his discretion, he gave advantage. Well, maybe it's not always the right call. And I would've liked to have taken a free kick. My whole team's set up. But now, you play advantage, we give the ball away on the next pass and we're out of shape.”
Saturday's loss is the Claret-and-Cobalt's fourth in its last six MLS games. Perhaps more troubling is the team's continued scoring drought — RSL hasn't scored a goal fro the run of play since the 23rd minute of a June 7 loss to Portland. The team scored twice to beat New England on July 4, but both goals came on penalty kicks.
That's more than 337 minutes without a goal scored from open play.
Real Salt Lake plays five of its next six games at home, and the team knows it has to start scoring and picking up some points.
“We've got some important games coming at home,” RSL defender Tony Beltran told reporters. “We need to put points on the board.”