IN LARGE part because of its stern rules and regulations, soccer has remained one of the purest sports on the planet.
There is little in the way of modern technology that FIFA - soccer's world governing body - has allowed to make the game more exact. Only in the past 15 years or so has the implementation of officials wearing headsets and digital stoppage timers come into play.
With the hopes of keeping soccer a "human" game, the human element of making mistakes has become not only evident but rampantly displayed repeatedly by this World Cup. Blown calls for goals, offsides and other infractions have soured the taste of a game still criticized by Americans for lacking in excitement, despite the successes of our men's and women's national teams and the ever-budding success of Major League Soccer.
Two weeks ago, Sepp Blatter, president of the Switzerland-based FIFA, announced the organization would "reopen the book" on implementing technology, specifically goal-line advances, to deter moments like Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland and Frank Lampard's disallowed goal for England against Germany.
Perhaps even figure out a way to erase future doubt on plays like the two goals scored by the United States called offsides against Slovenia and Algeria in World Cup group play last month.
Last season, UEFA, Europe's governing outfit, added a fourth and fifth official in some of its matches in the Europa League, suggesting that the addition of more eyes may deter some of the blown calls. It's a design that may soon happen Stateside as Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, recently told the New York Times that "[the Federation] would be happy to do some trial cases, not in the rules of the game, but with an additional referee or technology."
With federations in the U.S. and Canada holding authority over MLS, the league could become the litmus test in continued advances to the game. Nelson Rodriguez, MLS' executive vice president of competition, technical and game operations feels that while now is the best time to make proper advances, there is no reason to rush.
"Every year as part of an annual review we look at our game and the world's game, and we look at trends that we can review and implement to work better," Rodriguez told the Daily News. "We are awaiting the report from the Europa League and then working in concert with both the U.S. Soccer and Canadian Soccer Association, to see if this is something they would want to authorize. It's my personal belief that we should advance and improve, but it shouldn't be done with haste. It took a long time for officials to have headsets, and that has been a positive step. I do believe we should be open-minded and progressive, but at the same time it shouldn't be done because of an outcry that has transpired in large part to mistakes stemming from the World Cup."
Rodriguez noted that while the league, various federations and even FIFA aren't aware yet of any reliable technology that would help, the need for advancement is apparent in today's game. Whether it arises by technology or the inclusion of more officials is still yet to be decided. Rodriguez added there is virtually no chance of any advances taking place this season or in 2011 in MLS.
"There is no question that we have the technology to do it, and that you don't have to change the traditional format of the game, either," said Union assistant John Hackworth.
It remains to be seen what will happen, and whether the talk of mounting cameras on crossbars or posting an extra official behind the net actually will become commonplace, but with the events that have transpired over the past month - specifically in South Africa - it's evident that the world's biggest game needs to make giant changes to its design.
Sticking it to San Jose
Shea Salinas still remembers the emotions he felt when his name wasn't on San Jose's protected list of players prior to last November's MLS Expansion Draft. The native Texan, who spent the 2008-09 season with the club, was burned that despite making the Earthquakes' starting 11 in the last few games of the 2009 season, he ultimately was sent packing.
Salinas, 24, will have a chance at retribution when the Earthquakes visit PPL Park tomorrow (6 p.m., FSC), in the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Led by star midfielder and Penn Charter grad Bobby Convey, San Jose will be out to disrupt the pristine, 2-0-1 home record of the Union.
"It's exciting but it's even more exciting to be playing them at home," said Salinas, who notched one of the best goals of the MLS season against Houston. "Anytime you play against your old team there is extra incentive even if guys say there isn't. Ultimately you want to prove a point; you want to show them that they were wrong for letting you go and that they should have kept you."
Odds and endlines
The Union will play three games in 7 days starting tomorrow with San Jose, followed by Scottish Premier League club Celtic FC, Wednesday night at PPL Park. Next Saturday, a return to MLS play finds the Union hosting Toronto FC in a rematch from a 2-1 loss at Toronto's BMO Field on April 15 . . . Another mea culpa comes by way of yours truly, who mistakenly wrote Chris Seitz' penalty save against Seattle was against forward Fredy Montero. Seitz actually stymied Sounders forward Pat Noonan . . . MLS confirmed yesterday Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Darren Fletcher, Dimitar Berbatov and Edwin Van der Sar are on the Red Devils roster for its North American tour that includes a game against the Union on July 21. Still no word on Wayne Rooney or Nani. Manchester is scheduled to release its full travel roster on Monday.Shots on goal
San Jose (5-4-4) at Union (3-7-2)
When: Tomorrow, 6 o'clock, Where: PPL Park, Chester
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol.
On the web: Streaming webcast at MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: It's the Union's undefeated record at home vs. San Jose's even keel, 2-2-2 road record. Led by forward Chris Wondolowski, who ranks third-best in the league for consecutive games with either a goal or an assist (four games), San Jose enters PPL winless in its last five games . . . Goalkeeper Joe Cannon and his 1.27 goals against average boast five wins, all shutouts. Penn Charter grad Bobby Convey, San Jose's versatile playmaking midfielder, has seven assists, second best in MLS . . . Union defender Cristian Arrieta will serve a one-game suspension if he draws a yellow card in tomorrow's match.
INJURY REPORT (AS OF TUESDAY)
Out for the Union: Kyle Nakazawa, MF (right knee sprain)
Questionable: Alejandro Moreno, FW (right knee contusion)
Out for San Jose: Andre Luiz, MF (left knee); Steven Beitashour, DF (right knee sprain)
Questionable: FW Scott Sealy (right quad strain)
HE SAID IT
"It's all about keeping him humble, but at the same time keeping him hungry." - Union assistant John Hackworth, on the unwavering play of rookie forward Danny Mwanga.
Which MLS team has made the playoffs in all of the leagues first 10 seasons?
A. D.C. United
B. Columbus Crew
C. Los Angeles Galaxy
D. Kansas City Wizards
By Jamie Clary, author of the "First American Soccer Trivia Book," available at: www.soccerprofessor.com
Send search engine-free answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org. First to respond with the correct answer will receive a copy of Clary's book. Congrats to Ryan Getz of Philadelphia who last week correctly answered Tab Ramos as the first player to sign with MLS.