Controversial Officiating Shouldn't Be a Storyline. But This is the NWSL.
On a busy news night in the NWSL, the Boston Breakers hosted their regional rivals the Western New York Flash on Wednesday night. More on the "scandal" surrounding Megan Rapinoe, the owner of the Washington Spirit and the National Anthem later tonight, if I get sufficiently motivated. A scandal that nobody seems to want to address is the preposterously inconsistent quality of officiating across the NWSL.
In Boston, the Breakers got off to a quick start when Kyah Simon beat her fellow Westfield Matilda Australian Alanna Kennedy for a goal in the 4th minute. Kennedy took it in stride:
Jess McDonald drew the teams level when she found the net with her own rebound after Libby Stout saved her original shot. McDonald looked to be in an offside position when Sam Mewis unloaded a long pass from her own end, but the flag stayed down and the goal counted. On the Breakers bench, there was a fair amount of certainty that the flag should have gone up.
As it turned out, that no-call was emblematic of the officiating performance from the crew in Boston. Coaches and players were begging for consistency from the officials all night, but the stripes weren't interested. Major fouls were waved off, as alleged time wasting early in the match by Boston's keeper seemed more important. Possession on out-of-bounds balls was awarded to the wrong team (one time prompting former Breaker and current Flash midfielder McCall Zerboni to erupt with a primordial "NOOOOOO!" in what should really get a play of the week nomination). Players who were themselves fouled, obviously, found the calls to have gone against them when they'd found their feet. Multiple players with possible head injuries weren't checked, even when the assistant referee noticed, and even as a medical professional on the sideline waited, ready to respond (and did, finally, when Brooke Elby took a knock in the 2nd half). It was bad, and both teams spoke about how the officiating affected the match after the game.
Whether or not she was in an offside position prior to scoring, Jess McDonald's goal was all hustle. The Flash really wanted 3 points to keep their playoff dreams alive, but had to settle for just one. They'll need to do better in their remaining matches, including the September 24th re-match in Boston, if they want a shot to get to Houston for the Championship.
The teams exchanged non-controversial goals by Boston's Natasha Dowie and Western New York's Lynn Williams to finish the game tied at 2-2.
Boston, after suffering demoralizing consecutive defeats at home to Houston and away at Portland in the previous seven days, shrugged off the jet-lag and put in a tough, composed performance. One-touch passing and movement off the ball are hugely improved from the early season, and though they don't always look competitive against the top two or three teams, they can hang with most of the mid-table sides.
Natasha Dowie's arrival has sparked new life into the team, and she's rewarded them with 3 goals in her first 5 games. Her hold-up play is reliable and dangerous, and she creates holes for Kyah Simon, Eunice Beckman and the other forwards and attacking mids to exploit. With an off-season and some player turnover, I'd expect Boston to look a LOT better next season.