It’s Week 3. And yeah, it’s a bit early in the season. But unless you’re the NC Courage, many teams are still busy building fitness, establishing chemistry, and finding their offensive rhythm. But if there’s one thing other than the sporadic goals to remind us that NWSL is back for season five, the early frustrating officiating is here to help you out.
To refresh your memory, last season in May, several coaches had issue with officiating during a weekend of games. In a rivalry match up that featured Portland and Seattle, things naturally got physical. However, when the contact between rival players increased to the point of potential injury, and Reign FC coach Laura Harvey let her feelings be known in the post-game. Quoted from Sounder At Heart, Harvey knew she would be fined for part the following statement:
“I thought the ref lost control of the game. I think everyone should look at Bev Goebel’s face. I’m not saying anybody went out to hurt anybody. But the reality is that when the referee doesn’t get a hold on the game, like he didn’t, someone was going to get hurt.”
During the same post game, Portland Thorns head coach Mark Parson shared similar sentiments, stating “It sounds like Laura might be getting fined, so I’ll try to take the calm approach.” Parsons further cemented his agreement in making a simple “No comment,” when he was asked his thoughts on the officiating. In the same 2016 weekend, NC Courage [then WNY Flash] Head Coach Paul Riley also expressed frustrations with the officiating.
I spoke to Paul Riley a little while ago. To say he is not pleased with Saturday's officiating would be a gross understatement #NWSL
— Dan Lauletta (@TheDanLauletta) May 16, 2016
It truly was a season to remember, but what some recall most are the articles, podcasts, and general conversations about PRO officiating. And this year, the season with the brand new shiny A+E Network Lifetime TV deal, fans got their first dose of Chicago Red Stars head coach Rory Dames joining the officiating critique party. On Saturday, when the Red Stars faced the Thorns in Lifetime’s featured game of the week, this was Dames’ post-game reaction.
Deserved better from the game, everyone deserved better from the referees…visiting team coach does not get interviewed here…enjoy!! pic.twitter.com/3PtoyZPDpS
— Rory Dames (@dames_rory) April 29, 2017
I reached out to Coach Dames for some post-game comments. When I asked him his thoughts on the collision between his star striker Christen Press and Portland’s Goal Keeper Adriana France, Dames shoots it straight from the hip,
“It’s a stone-cold penalty kick, and arguably, a Red Card. Casey plays the ball in, Christen takes the ball high, the goalie goes low, takes her feet and wraps her up. She’s [Franch] the last defender who prevents her from scoring. So, no question, it’s a penalty kick and arguably a red card.”
As the visiting team, in an early season game that could’ve been perceived as a future potential playoff game, collecting a first goal can often be crucial. Chicago is no stranger from having to play from behind, but while trying to grind out a result, one can’t help but wonder if momentum is killed or changed. Dames admits there can be both, while reminding me of one penalty vs no penalty.
“I don’t think it [missed calls] kills the momentum. I think that when he [official] turns around and calls a penalty kick on a ball that’s blasted from a yard away onto Christen’s arm, a ball that Sonnet’s actually kicking away from our goal, it probably would’ve traveled 40 yards towards the half line, and that’s when you decide to take the penalty kick? I mean obviously, it changes momentum in that scoring the first goal in that game was always going to be important. So, either be brave enough to call them on both sides, or don’t call them on either side.”
Both teams faced each other in preseason back in March. The result of that game also came from a penalty kick. However, playing for assessment and playing for a result are two very different things. Dames even took time to elaborate on the positives for a longer preseason, saying that he thinks “a longer preseason and a longer regular season would be good for the league. But I don’t think what went on in our preseason has any impact on where we’re at in the table right now. But I think everyone would want to have a longer season and preseason if we could.”
Chicago’s head coach since 2011, Dames has been with the team since it was competing in the WPSL. He has been praised for his ability to draft well and help develop players. Coaches are often responsible to help establish the tone and culture of their teams. Since the NWSL began in 2013, Dames has been a key component of making that happen for his teams throughout the seasons. While many famous coaches in other sports have been tied to Chicago through their large personalities or their championships, Dames’ style and approach is tied to the players he coaches. While his hard-nosed techniques might not sit well will some, his coaching philosophies resonate with his players.
Although Dames currently doesn’t have an NWSL championship on his resume, no one doubts his experience, or his honesty. As to whether he expects a fine after his comments this weekend, Dames just said that if one comes his way, he’ll happily take it.
Now that’s a Chicago-style attitude for sure.