In the midst of D.C. United’s loss to the Portland Timbers, a play occurred that led to the 4th and final goal that we wanted to vent about, specifically Jeremy Ebobisse’s challenge on Steve Birnbaum:
So, let’s put aside the nature of whether or not Ebobisse’s challenge was dirty (I don’t think it was). Let’s go to Mark Geiger, two-time MLS referee of the year, and some wider coverage of Geiger both at and after the challenge on Birnbaum, starting at the right edge of the screen:
That’s about 20-25 yards that Geiger covers, 3-4 seconds after Birnbaum hits the ground. It’s not until Paul Arriola comes to check on his teammate, six seconds after he hits the ground, that Birnbaum to get any attention of any kind whatsoever.
FIFA’s website says the following about head injuries to players:
“With every impact to the head, it is important that you always think of concussion and watch out for it.”
But that’s player communication. D.C. United’s history of concussions has been well documented, and eerily enough, the Portland Timbers have also been involved in a head injury where a goal was scored moments later. What are the officials supposed to do in a situation like this? PRO’s website says that:
“When there is a clash of heads or a clear head injury, there is potential of concussion, and referees will stop the game immediately. Also if the player was in immediate danger, for example in the middle of a crowded penalty area in the midst of players, the referee may consider it to be safer to stop the game.”
Let’s go one further. The FIFA Laws of the Game are a touch contradictory, stating in Law 5:
“play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in the opinion of the referee, only slightly injured”
It then says in the next point:
“play is stopped if, in the opinion of the referee, a player is seriously injured”
So...where did any of that happen here? Ask yourself that question one more time as you view that second clip.
The goal itself, and whether or not video assistant referee Fotis Bazakos should have called for play to be restarted at the moment of Ebobisse’s challenge, is irrelevant to the safety of the players on the field. The center referee has to keep the safety of the players as his paramount objective, especially when the result of the game has already been determined. Luckily, D.C. United told Black and Red United last night that Steve Birnbaum is doing well and was with the team at their hotel.
A brief moment to be magnanimous. We know where D.C. United is in the standings, but let’s put that aside. Let’s also put aside whatever thoughts fans in other MLS cities have of his work. Let’s also put aside whatever thoughts Mexico fans had of him during the 2015 Gold Cup. There’s just one thing we’d like to ask Mark Geiger:
Of the four practical elements of decision-making that PRO has cited before in past decision examinations:
Which one(s) do you honestly think you exercised here?