CARSON, Calif. – MLS will begin the 2014 MLS Regular Season without its usual referee crews as replacements will be taking over the officiating duties for opening weekend.
On Friday, the Professional Referee Organization announced that it will lock out its officials after the Professional Soccer Referees Association had rejected a no strike/no lockout agreement. Negotiations have been ongoing between the two sides for several months as they seek to reach their first Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, like all other teams playing in opening weekend, will be affected as they saw their referee assignment changed from 2012 MLS Referee of the Year Silviu Petrescu to veteran CONCACAF official Javier Santos. A member of FIFA Puerto Rico, the Colombian official was an official during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2013 CONCACAF U-20 World Cup Qualifying tournament in Mexico. Santos has also gained substantial experience in the CONCACAF Champions League in the last three years, officiating over eight CONCACAF Champions League matches and even served as the fourth official for LA’s 4-0 loss to Isidro Metapán in CCL group play last year.
Although the men in the yellow shirts will be different, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena believes that his team and the rest of the clubs in MLS are prepared for the replacement officials.
“We’ve been aware of it. The referee is going to be the same for both teams. Hopefully they’re all prepared to do their job and we get on with it,” said Arena. “In all fairness, players have to adjust more than the referee. The referee is going to have a style of play and he’s not going to be fully informed on the qualities of MLS. He’s going to referee the way that he’s always refereed and we’re going to have to adjust quickly.”
Veteran defender James Riley, who is expected to start on the left side of defense on Saturday, agrees.
“We just have to control what we can control and not worry about who is assigned to the game, but just go out and do what we can do,” said Riley. “The cadence and rhythm are a bit different. He may call things a bit differently, but I’m sure that he’ll get direction on how the game should be called and he’ll use his ability to do so. We won’t think too much about it and just hope that there is a speedy resolution.
“I think the referees overall do a fantastic job and that’s a very difficult position,” Riley continued. “They’ve been criticized a lot over the years since I’ve been in the league. We know that they’re an integral part of this game and we want it to get better. We want the overall product both on and off the field to get better and they have a significant role in that. We as players support a quick resolution, but the season is going to go on and that’s the reality of it.”