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MLS Referee Chris Penso screwed up: let's all admit it so we can improve the league.

Not a picture from Saturday night but a picture of Chris Penso.
Not a picture from Saturday night but a picture of Chris Penso.

I was ready to let Saturday go. I really was. The breaks are the breaks. Head referee Chris Penso called for 5 minutes of extra time in this past weekend's Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes game but Steven Lenhart was able to score a goal in the 98th minute of play anyway. I'm sure somewhere down the line the Chicago Fire will benefit from a time keeping error (perhaps this was even cosmic payback for a mistake in the past). Our own Gregg Mixdorf pointed out that this was a great game for head coach Frank Klopas' progression. I agree and I've already stated that I was happy with a draw after expecting the Fire to lose to the best team in MLS. I'm looking forward to this Saturday night's game versus Toronto FC.

However, Robert Jonas of the fantastically named 'Quake, Rattle & Goal', took to defending referee Penso and the San Jose Earthquakes. Just when I thought I was out, they sucked me back in. I'm sorry (that I'm not sorry) but the extra, extra time is indefensible. You don't get to have the tie and feel it was legitimately earned.

Jonas does a very good job of breaking down the extra time that built up in the second half. He also does a good job of providing some rules and background when it comes to awarding extra time. Extra-time is not exactly an exact science. I admit that sentence puts a dagger through any stance that I take. Here's the main problem though. Jonas and Penso did not have an issue with extending extra time for this reason - and I quote from Jonas:

91:52 - 95:01 Gordon is sent off for the second yellow, and Gargan receives extensive treatment from the Fire trainers. Quakes coach Frank Yallop is ejected from the stadium for flinging a water bottle holder onto the field in protest - a move he later quipped was intended to provide a dehydrated Salinas with water - and the referees confer over the incident. Gargan is slowly assisted to the sideline before Penso resumes play (3:09).

What author Jonas does not cite but referee Penso saw is San Jose captain Chris Wondolowski complained bitterly about Gordon's call. How do we know Penso saw this? Wondolowski got a yellow card. Jonas also fails to cite the fact that San Jose fans started throwing garbage on the field. This also caused a delay. When I asked Jonas if he condones this behavior as a way to always set back the clock in any game, he essentially punts the question and shifts the blame to Gargan.

What if Gargan saw all the nonsense that was going on and thought to himself, "Dan my man, you've got some time to recover from the studs-up-direct-hit to the shin you just received."? That apparently is not possible for Jonas. To extend this line of thinking, Gargan's injury would have been 'ancillary' and San Jose would have been the guilty party if Gargan got up a second earlier than San Jose finished pouting like children.

It apparently is also fine to injure the other team to buy some time. Using Jonas' logic and Penso's apparent interpretation of post-stoppage time clock management, you can buy extra time in extra time by knocking a player out. Wondolowski looked a little gassed there. Perhaps Gordon should have gone in harder and bought an additional minute or so. San Jose fans could have thrown more garbage on the field and the assistant coach could have thrown a second cooler of Gatorade on the field. As long as it all got wrapped up before Gargan recovered, it's all 'ancillary'. Maybe we could have even been treated to another quip from Frank Yallop joking about the situation.

If a Fire player ever injures someone in extra time with an offense that warrants them a red card, it's game over if the Fire are searching for a goal. If you ever hear me say differently, you have these words to serve me crow. The actions of San Jose on Saturday were deplorable. The time management of head referee Chris Penso was sub-par at best. At worst, it sets a dangerous precedent for how to buy some clock time in MLS.

I accept what happened. There's no appealing for a change in the result. I also hope we never see such a poor display in this league again. And for crying out loud San Jose, don't dare try and justify this as acceptable. You get your cake but if you try and eat it, prepare for the taste and consistency of a synthetic blonde wig.