Strange Call in U.S./Canada Olympic Semifinal Mars Match


The Olympic semifinal between the United States and Canada was an instant classic.  Christine Sinclair showed why she is one of the best players in the world.  Megan Rapinoe struck from 20 yards out on a laser off the post and in.  There were so many back and forth moments.  The physicality was a spectacle, especially since most players dusted it off and moved on.  It went to extra time and the U.S. prevailed, but many were talking about the referee after the match.

In the 78th minute, just after Canada had taken the lead on Sinclair’s hat trick goal, Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen awarded an indirect free kick to the United States.  The foul was on the Canadian keeper, Erin McLeod, for time wasting.  The six second rule, which it is more widely known, is most likely violated over four times per professional match but rarely called.  At times a keeper may be given a yellow card or warned.  Yellow cards are virtually meaning to goalkeepers.

Rumors have circulated saying that McLeod was warned previously, but that cannot be confirmed at the moment.  McLeod has stated there was no warning.  On a site approved by the U.S. Soccer Federation’s National Referee Program and endorsed by the Professional Soccer Referee Association, they discuss the rule more in depth.

"The six-second count does not begin until the goalkeeper is clearly in possession of the ball and ABLE to think about releasing the ball into general play. Not while the goalkeeper is on the ground; not while he or she is recovering from a fall; not while he or she is rising: Only after the goalkeeper is clearly alert and ready to function.Anything beyond that time is a matter for the individual discretion of the referee, who is the sole judge of the passage of time in a soccer game.Using the guidelines above, you can mention this in the pregame conference to the ARs who work with you or to the referee when you are AR, but never, never make calls on situations that are clearly visible to the referee.Finally, a point we emphasize in our answers to this and similar questions about goalkeeper release of the ball: Most of the time the offense is trivial as long as you are seeing an honest effort to put the ball back into play. We also recommend that the referee warn the ‘keeper about the time on the first offense before we do anything more about it."

The result of the indirect free kick was a handball in the area for a penalty kick that was converted by Abby Wambach thus tying the match.  Some were up in arms regarding the handball call as well, but it seemed to get two Canadian defenders in the hand or arm.  One was turning away, and although they were not blatant handballs, most can say they have seen worse calls.  The most questionable call by Pedersen was easily the indirect free kick.

After the match the Canadian players used words like “robbed” and “cheated” to describe how they felt.  Melissa Tancredi alluded to the referee wearing her U.S. jersey during the match.  Sinclair may have made the boldest statement of all after the match.

Obviously fans were very irate as well.