Sacramento sports fans are probably used to the idea of an official altering the outcome of a game, though their familiarity does not make it any easier to stomach. Within a span of two matches early in the Republic's 2016 schedule three very dubious calls were made against the squad. Despite drawing the fan's ire, the consequences of these poor calls could have been much worse if not for a game-saving goal from local product Cameron Iwasa.
The first egregious call came in the Republic's home opener against Arizona United SC and their notoriously stingy goalkeeper, Carl Wosczcynski. After both sides battled through almost the entirety of the first half, San Jose Earthquakes loanee Mark Sherrod hammered home a header in the 35th minute on a beautiful corner by Danny Barrera which seemingly put the Republic in the lead. The officials, however, had other ideas as a foul was called on Emrah Klimenta thus nullifying the goal and keeping the game scoreless.
Even after going back to watch the replay, from my vantage point nothing seemed to have occurred outside of the normal contact that occurs on almost every corner taken at any level. In fact it almost appears that the goalie should have been called for a foul for essentially tossing Klimenta into the goal. Coach Buckle obviously agrees with the egregious assessment as he stated that he did not see any foul on the play and described the non-goal as "perfectly good" after the match. Thankfully the call was made moot by the late game heroics of Cameron Iwasa, who slotted home the only goal of the match and sent the record breaking crowd of 11,569 at Bonney Field into a frenzy.
Unfortunately that blown call was not the only difficulty that the Republic encountered on their way to victory. Emrah Klimenta's second half goal was called back because the assistant referee called him offside. Though it looked very close to me, many others, including Coach Buckle, felt that it was a terrible call. I give a little leeway to referees on plays that develop as quickly as that one did, as it is likely very difficult to be without error when judging the timing of service with the position of multiple players in motion. I suppose I will have to take the Coach's word on this call. Fortunately it did not alter the outcome of the game thanks to Iwasa's late game heroics.
The most impactful incorrect call of the season so far was the one seen in last Sunday's match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. In the 43rd minute of another scoreless game, Emrah Klimenta sent in a picturesque cross to JJ Koval, which deflected to a waiting Tommy Stewart, who placed the ball in the back of the net. Somehow the officials deemed Stewart to be offside and negated what could have been the winning goal.
After watching this call again it looked like Stewart was never in front of the ball and thus could not be offside. Since the match ended without any scoring, this missed call likely cost the Republic two additional points. Two points may not seem like a lot right now, but come playoff time, they could have a much bigger impact determining seeding and whether or not a team makes it to the postseason.
Obviously the officiating in any sport is going to have moments of human error. I would certainly chalk up all three calls above to that rather than assume something unsavory was occurring. Hopefully, for the sake of Republic fan and fans all over the league, the officiating throughout the USL improves as the season progresses because far too much is at stake to accept substandard refereeing.