Friday, July 10, 2009

CRC vs CAN

Today was game day! CJ and I refereed Costa Rica vs. Canada. We did our pregame at lunch. After some rest, the ride to and from the stadium was a little faster, due to the police escort that helped us get through rush hour traffic. The game went well. It was 2-2 draw with two cautions. It was very hot and humid. We also found out that since the U.S. is going though to the quarterfinals, we are being sent home. It is one of those mixed feelings, because you always want to stay as long as you can, but we also want to be able to support the U.S. team. So we will be able to go home and see the family and watch the games on television.

CJ will be able to be matched up with another crew, so make sure to watch the games and see which ones he will be doing!

-TV

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beach Day! (Sort of...)

Today is the day before the 3rd game in group A so for us, that means game day preparation for tomorrow. We went to the beach and did our warm up and light workout, because the sand makes sure the workout doesn’t impact our bodies too hard. We then got dinner and watched the other games and got to bed to get rest for the next day.

-TV

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Heading Down South

Today we got up and did a recovery workout before getting on the charter flight to Miami. This workout was just to get the heart rate up a little to help flush the lactic acids from the body. With a good stretch to help the muscles recover as well, it was off to the airport where our bus dropped us off at a small airport. We were checked real quickly by security and then we walked right on to the plane. We ate lunch on the flight to Miami. When we landed, we jumped on our bus with our bags and went off to the hotel. We settled in and then went for a walk to stretch the legs. After dinner and watching the U.S. game, we called it a night and went to bed.

-TV

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Matchday 2 for CONCACAF Gold Cup

Today was matchday 2 for our group. I had the day off while Jair and CJ refereed Jamaica vs Costa Rica. The game went well with one caution and one red card. I got to watch both games up in a box with the administrators, assessors and an instructor. It was nice to relax and watch the games and cheer for our referee team. Earlier in the day, since I did not have a game, I was the only one that had to train so I went to a park and got some distance work in. Tomorrow it is off to Miami!

-TV

CONCACAF Elite Referee Training Course Explained

Every year, CONCACAF organizes a course for elite level referees in the United States. This includes all the referees who participate in tournaments in CONCACAF like the Champions League, Gold Cup and FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. This year, prior to the 2009 Gold Cup, six U.S. referees were invited, of which three are participating in the Gold Cup—Terry, Jair and CJ Morgante. The rest of us had the pleasure of being part of such an important event that took place in Long Beach, California June 28-July 1.

All the referees who were invited from other countries arrived a day earlier. On June 28, we started the activities with a warm welcome from instructors and information about the fitness test we would have to take the following day. Around noon we went to the Home Depot Center to check out the fields. We did some stretching and light fitness for approximately two hours, so that are bodies didn’t go straight from travel into the fitness test the next morning.

On the following day, Monday, the first group arrived at the HDC around 7: 15 in the morning for fitness testing. After a twenty minute warm-up, we began with six repetitions of 40 meters every 6.2 seconds, and after that 12 laps around the track, with an added repetition every two laps. Each added repetition was to run 150 meters in 30 seconds as we went around the track for that lap, with a recuperation time of 35 seconds each in between each sprint. Once everyone was done, we headed to the hotel to continue with lessons in the classroom. By viewing videos of game situations like serious foul plays, violent conduct, diving, positioning on the field of play, and game management situations, we had the opportunity to study common mistakes and ask questions of our instructors, who would later on be issuing exams on the topics we had covered. With short breaks between classroom sessions and lunch, we usually finished our day around 6 p.m. The next day we started the activities again at 6:30 a.m. with some stretching, in the gym and the pool, to recover from our fitness test from the prior day. We then went back to the classroom sessions.

On the last day, Wednesday, we went to the field to do some training sessions on team work, communication, and positioning. Around 7 we had a special dinner, sort of a closing ceremony, giving a good bye to each one of us. It was a wonderful experience for all of us, and no doubt helped improve all of us referees so that we can continue to officiate big matches in CONCACAF.

-U.S. Referee Baldomero Toledo

Monday, July 6, 2009

CONCACAF Gold Cup Blog continued

Everyone today did game preparation, except for me since I have a few more days before my game. I did a high intensity training session. The workout started out with a good warm up. I walked 20 yards from the corner flag toward the goal then I turned on a diagonal, jogging forward 20 yards, then turned and ran backwards to the sideline. Once I hit the line, I had to turn and give a full sprint to the other corner of the field. Then I did the same thing on the other side of the field, coming back to the same corner. That was one lap. I had to do 12 with a 4 minute break and then another 12 laps, and after that I joined the others for a game of keep away.

-TV

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Preparing for Match Two

Today, we woke up in Columbus, Ohio to get ready for our upcoming match. After breakfast we got a bus and went to a soccer field where we did a medium intensity training for 90 minutes, doing a good warm up and interval runs like we would do in a game—some jogging, some full sprints, running backwards and changing back and forth along with some slower walking for recovery. This gets our heart rate up and down as well as works on the way we run in a game.
Then after lunch we had our debriefing from the two game days. All the referees from each group sit in one classroom as we go over video clips. We debrief all the games so we are all on the same page. We go over offside decisions, positioning, misconduct selection, game management, and mechanics. We do this to help us get better for the next matches. Then we have a little free time but before we know it, it's off to the stadium to check the field and facility. Then it is time for dinner and some importaqnt rest before it's time to get up and do it all over again.

-TV

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On To The Next One...

This morning we woke up to head out for the next venue. Our flight departed at ten in the morning. CONCACAF organized for us to fly a charter flight from Long Beach, CA to Columbus, Ohio, along with the other referees that officiated the first two matches at the Home Depot. We also flew with the Jamaican national team and the El Salvador national team. I would like to comment on how well the Gold Cup has been in organizing our pick ups and departures. It was great not to go through two busy airports. The plane landed in Columbus and we just had to get off the plane and into the buses that were waiting for us on the tarmac near the airport. We arrived around five o'clock in the afternoon and went directly to the hotel. Now we just have to get adjusted to the new time zone and get ready for Tuesday's matches. I will be officiating Costa Rica vs Jamaica at 7pm on the 7th of July, while Terry will have the day off. Stay tuned for more as the first round of the 2009 Gold Cup continues!

-JM

Friday, July 3, 2009

Game Day!


After days of training and preparation, today was game day. We were working the opening match between Canada and Jamaica. Here is a run down of the day: We woke up and had breakfast and started making plans for the match. We then got some rest and had lunch while we did our pre-game preparation. We like to do our pre-game before we go to the stadium because at these events you never know what is going to happen when you get to the stadium—with people coming in and out of the locker room, wanting things done on their schedule it is often easier to avoid the distractions to do the pre-game at the hotel.


Then we were off to the stadium with the assistance of a police escort to make the trip quickly. When we arrived we checked the field again, then started changing and getting ourselves ready for the match. Once ready, we warmed up as a team. Game time...the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup is underway!


Game was 1-0 for Can. We then watched the second match as El Salvador defeated Costa Rica 2-1. Tomorrow we get on a flight to Columbus to prepare for the next set of games.
-TV

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Closing Out Camp

The last day of the seminar was today. We had a full day of class, which was focused on making sure we are all on the same page with the things we had covered and a few other subjects were covered too. Then we had another session of practical out on the field. This was more focused and more intense to help us make those decision that we need to work together to get right. While we were waiting our turn to go, we had to do different things moving through cones—some times forward, sometimes backward as well as side to side. We never stopped moving and then for a lot of these decisions we were making 60 yard sprints to simulate us getting caught in transition. Then like the day before we had players doing different things and we had to work with our AR to get the call right. Then we came back to hear closing remarks and got to eat a nice meal and enjoy each other's company. Some participants had to leave the next day, some to go home while others went to locations for Gold Cup games. Lucky for us, we get to stay in L.A. to start. Check back later for more to come!

-TV

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 3 of Gold Cup Preparation

Today we started off with a pool workout as a way to recover from the fitness test we took yesterday. This is a great way to help the body repair and get back to being ready for intense workouts to come. We did resistance work, dynamic stretching, and static stretching. Then we had sessions on serious foul play, violent conduct, mass confrontation, advantage, and simulation. We took two video tests as well as a test on the laws of the game and wrapped up with a session on fitness.

Then we went to the fields for some practical training. We did a short warm up and then we got to practice on the field in working with assistant referees to make calls in the AR's area and then also in and around the penalty area. We had two teams of players cause fouls to create situations for us and force us to make a decision like in a real match. Then we got on the bus to come back to the hotel for dinner. Just another day at the Gold Cup, more to come tomorrow!

-TV

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Off and Running for Day 1

Today we had a full day. We started the day by doing fitness at the Home Depot Center. The work out was low intensity, but got the blood moving and stretched the legs out from the travel to L.A. We started out slow and then did lots of motions that we would do in a game such as change of speed along with lots of dynamic stretching and doing things to make sure we were concentrating. We then watched the U.S. play in the final of the Confederations Cup as a group. After that, we started the classroom sessions by talking about guidelines for referees and then the guidelines to the assistant referees.

The next session then covered fouls and misconduct in depth. The last thing we did was take a video test as a team of one referee and one AR worked together to make the call as they would in the game. For example, if the situation happens by the assistant referee they are more involved with each other. Now it’s off to dinner, knowing that our fitness test is first thing tomorrow morning. We’ve got to get hydrated and get some rest in us!


-TV

Saturday, June 27, 2009

1,000,000 Miles and Counting

I got off a plane in Miami coming back to the U.S. from Trinidad & Tobago. As I turned on my phone I had several voice mails and texts. This is common when returning to the country after being gone for a few days. When I was checking my messages, I was greeted by a person from the airline saying “Congratulations!" Usually when they call it is because my flights have been cancelled or delayed, but this was a different kind of message. They were letting me know that I had achieved their 1, 000,000 mile club. They were going to be sending me new luggage tags, a new member card and—my favorite—eight free upgrades.

Most people think referees just go and run around the soccer field and blow a whistle. They don’t see all the other stuff that goes into it. The fitness work, the eating right and getting enough sleep. One of the biggest obstacles that wear on us is all the travel. This is my ninth year in MLS and fifth year on the international panel. We spend lots of time on airplanes and in airports. It is important to be fit and stay hydrated. One of the first things I do when I get into a city when working a game is pick up water and some kind of a sports drink (usually Gatorade). I limit the Gatorade and/or mix it with water due to the calories. I try to only drink sports drinks when working out or prepping for a game. During a highly competitive match a referee can burn upwards of 1,500 to 2,000 calories and cover six to nine miles. Hydration is important!

But now back to the travel. When I was at U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy Spring Showcase, I had a fellow referee ask how I travel. I told him my most common airlines, but what he was really asking is what is acceptable to wear when traveling. I thought that was a good question, so I gave him a good answer. When I travel for MLS games I am usually in an Official Sports polo shirt. It is important that when traveling for U.S. Soccer that we are dressed clean and smart. This doesn’t mean you have to be in a suit and tie; a nice pair of pants and OSI polo shirt or OSI warm up is very acceptable. Sometimes, I will wear jeans and leather shoes with an OSI shirt of some kind. This should be the practice of all referees that represent U.S. Soccer.

I hope you are enjoying your games. As the summer months are upon us, make sure you are not only drinking plenty of fluids but also eating right.

Ricardo Salazar
U.S. Soccer Referee

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CONCACAF Training at the Gold Cup

I would like everyone to join us for our Gold Cup experience. This is my first Gold Cup, but for Terry this will be his second. We will be informing you on a daily basis of what we are doing to get ready this tournament. We arrived last night into Long Beach, California. CONCACAF has invited 56 referees from our region to have an elite referee seminar before the kick off of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Some referees will be staying for the tournament and the others will depart back to their countries after training on July 2nd. Terry and I are very excited to represent U.S Soccer's referee program, and we are very happy to share our experience with all of our friends and family.

-JM

Friday, June 5, 2009

Working With Professionals

In another segment written by a referee, get a look inside the game day experience of a referee in the WPS:

This past Memorial Day Weekend, I got to referee my first WPS and first ever top level professional division match. The whole experience was awesome and amazing! I had a great crew of referees to work with and a great assessor who were able to help me along the way. These are not the only people however that made this day possible. There are so many people that have helped me over the years and I am so grateful, lucky, and fortunate to and for those that have made an opportunity like this possible. Thank you!

Game day began with our pregame meeting at the hotel. The goal here was to leave no stone unturned and cover every possible thing that could happen. When we finished lunch and our discussion it was off to the stadium. We had two and half hours before kickoff which seems like a lot of time but there was still much to do. As a crew we walked the field, checked the uniform colors, and secured all the rosters and paperwork. We spoke to the game day operations staff and television crew, pumped up two bags full of soccer balls, and we hadn't even put on our uniforms yet. One of many firsts for me and most of my crew on this day was the use of the RefTalk communication devices. The technology that we use now to referee soccer games is great but I found out firsthand just how much time you need to get it all ready. Between the beeper flags, the heart rate monitors, and the communication devices, it was a bit comical watching all of us try and figure out where all the wires go and how to strap all this technology to us.

After a good half an hour to forty five minutes of getting dressed, we were finally ready to go and warm up. Walking out onto the field to loud music and seeing the beginnings of what was going to be a sold out crowd was an exciting moment. The adrenaline was starting kick in. We had broken a good sweat as we walked back to the locker room to put on our jerseys and at that point the butterflies that had been flying around in my stomach all day and all week really began to flutter. After one final check of everything in the locker room, my crew and I made our way to the tunnel where we met the teams. With a smile on my face, I wished the players good luck and we began to walk out on the field. The entire pregame ceremony and introductions seemed to take forever as I had been waiting for this kick off since I began refereeing many years ago. The national anthem was sung and the coin toss performed; the moment had arrived!

The first whistle blows and it's off to the races. The first foul occurs in the very first minute and there is no turning back. The first half sees a penalty kick for the visiting L.A. Sol putting them up 1-0 over the home team FC Gold Pride. A yellow card to each team is also issued before the first forty-five minutes are complete. Half time arrives and finally I get a chance to catch my breath. The crew feels pretty good about what happened in the first half but we know there is still more soccer to be played. What has happened so far is over and done with and we need to focus on to the second half.

Tactical changes in the second half by the home team are made in an attempt to rally from behind. The game's pace and speed pick up and the challenges are coming in harder and more often. Just when the Gold Pride seems to have the Sol on their heels, L.A. scores a second goal and the result now is almost inevitable. "Don't get comfortable!" and "Finish strong!" are the thoughts racing through my head. Unfortunately, the game comes to somewhat of an anti-climactic conclusion with an odd but apparently serious injury to one of the Gold Pride's best defenders in the 90th minute after she takes an awkward step over the touchline. After three minutes of stoppage time, I blow the final whistle and bring the affair to a close. We walk back to the locker rooms with our heads held high and for the first time in what has seemed like an eternity, the weight is lifted off my shoulders.

The feedback from the assessor is positive. There is definitely room for improvement, adjustments to be made, and things to work on, but overall, a job well done! Fellow referee colleagues who have come to the game to watch come to the locker room with congratulations for me and the crew. I turn on my cell phone to find numerous phone calls, voicemails, and text messages of well wishes and more congratulations. We finish the paperwork, shower, and head to the parking lot where I meet my excited best friends and family who were also in attendance. What a great feeling!

Lessons Learned Through Experience

More thoughts and comments from the referees of the 2009 Development Academy Spring Showcase


Hello from the airport in Sarasota. As the tournament is playing its last games I am at the airport awaiting my flight home. U.S. Soccer calls this the spring showcase but at times it felt like the middle of summer here in Florida. We had a large group of referees working this showcase. It was good to watch the referees work and show their stuff. It was a joy sitting with them after their games and discussing situations that took place in their games. They wanted to know if they handled the situations correctly or what they could have done differently next time. I give them credit for wanting to learn and get better.

I can remember coming through the ranks and some of the most memorable moments were the times spent hanging out. It is good to be in the lobby of the hotel or out watching a game and having referees wanting to spend time talking about refereeing. Don’t get me wrong, the games are great and that is why we are there but so much more can be learned from talking about the game.

I can remember at the winter showcase in Lancaster, not many of the referees took advantage of having experienced referees around. That was not the case during this spring showcase. All of us full timers tried to spend as much time as possible in the lobby of the hotel so we could be available to all the refs.

I would like to make a suggestion to those coming to the summer showcase in North Carolina: it is important to eat properly and hydrate often. If I was going there to referee (and this might likely happen) I would start hydrating a week in advance. What does that mean? I would double my fluid intake of water and Gatorade. I would shoot for 2 gallons of fluids a day and would be sure to keep hydrating on the plane.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spring Showcase Video Production

Another point of view from the D.A. Spring Showcase provided by full-time U.S. referee Baldomero Toledo illustrates the necessity and challenges of creating instructional videos for developing referees...

As a full-time FIFA referee, I think it is always important to be present during the development of young referees. On this occasion, U.S. Soccer assigned us to be part of the Development Academy Spring Showcase in Sarasota,Florida from May 21-26. All the participating teams from the academy arrived on Thursday prior to the U.S. Soccer staff, directed by Paul Tamberino. Brian Hall was also present, in charge to assign advisors at different fields to observe all the referees directing every game. At the end of the day we had the opportunity to discuss every game with every crew. The main idea was to identify areas that needed improvement, giving the proper advice so that those training this weekend will become better referees. Full-timers had the opportunity to share our good and bad experiences, so that others may learn and be better prepared for the future.

In my case, I traveled on Tuesday, May 19, 2009, with a special assignment coordinated by U.S. Soccer staff directed by Paul Tamberino, Alfred Kleinaitis and Dick Triche. They planned to produce a video detailing game situations, specifically how to conduct proper restarts off fouls. Wednesday around noon we headed to the fields to begin, but had to postpone because of weather conditions. Saturday morning around noon we tried again with much better weather. We prepared the field and had the opportunity to work with players from the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team, they were our “players” in the game situations we were filming. We began to record and demonstrated all types of fouls and misconducts, along with the appropriate re-start that should happen during the game. That way, we as referees can prevent these type of situations from occurring in real games. I would like to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation staff for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an important project, and I hope I have helped future referees.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Look Inside the Lines Part II

Since the 2009 Spring Showcase began this week, some of the referees have been keeping some notes on what it's like to be an official during this hectic but exciting weekend. Over the next few days, we'll share their thoughts and experiences to give you a better idea of the challenge all referees face in keeping matches clean, fair and safe.

I am now traveling home from another great event put on by U.S. Soccer, the 2009 Development Academy Spring Showcase held in Sarasota, Fla. They are doing these events to help develop the players, coaches and referees. This showcase was run very well through all levels like administration and the environment, and being out on the field with the best players and coaches means we had to make sure the referees were also top-notch. It was great to help coach and mentor them to help prepare them for future matches.

There were clinic sessions, assessments, and mentoring that went on to help them understand what it will take to go to the next level. As one of the four full time referees with U.S. Soccer, we were able to watch referees do the games and then give them guidance on what they were doing well and what they may think about changing so they could get the best results in every match they officiate. We also had referees sit with us at a game and talk through situations, and point out things that work as well as some alternatives. We would go back to the referee tent and share these things with the other referees. The best feeling was talking to the referees about improvements they could make and then going out the next day and seeing that they were trying it.

If you want to have a shot at getting on the U.S. Soccer referee staff, this is an event you want to attend. The whole staff was there along with new U.S. Soccer inspectors to do assessments and help mentor. But if you hope to impress them, you must come ready. You have to be up to date with what is coming out from U.S. Soccer Directives, the Week in Review, and you must show up very fit, not just the minimum because there is nowhere to hide on the field if you’re out of shape. If you want to get the most up-to-date training this is the place you need to be. Again, this was a great event and it was an honor to be part of preparing the future.


-TV

Monday, May 25, 2009

Paul Tamberino Wants You!

...to watch Referee Week in Review.

The weekly combination of video clips and written explanations of close calls has provided an invaluable tool in continually teaching not just U.S. Soccer Federation referees, but officials of all levels. Don't believe us? Take a look at this clip detailing one such success story.

Here's the clip in question with the accompanying explanation. Think you could have made the right call?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Look Inside the Lines

Since the 2009 Spring Showcase began this week, some of the referees have been keeping some notes on what it's like to be an official during this hectic but exciting weekend. Over the next few days, we'll share their thoughts and experiences to give you a better idea of the challenge all referees face in keeping matches clean, fair and safe.

Travel Day and Day 1 of the Development Academy

On Thursday, I arrived in Bradenton, Fla., along with 124 referees from all over the United States to work the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase games, marking the second year that I have refereed in at an Academy Showcase. The Showcase started for the referees on Thursday night at 8 p.m. with a meeting. As I sat in the room full of US Soccer staff and peers I felt the excitement of what was to come. The meeting opened with the tournament director’s announcements and expectations for the week. There was a bit of instruction and video clips from the Development Academy Finals Week from last year, and before we received our assignments for the next day, the director introduced us to the assessors and FIFA referees that would be watching and mentoring us over the next several days. After we received our assignments, we went out to the lobby to socialize and meet new referees we would be working with the next day.

The Showcase is taking place at the Sarasota Polo fields, and as I looked out across the 20 soccer fields, every one of them looked pristine. Each referee had at least two to three games on the first day. I was part of three matches on the first day — two Under-15/16 and one Under-17/18 match. The teams I watched were very disciplined and responded with professionalism.

Impressed at the level of play, I felt anticipation for my game in the middle. The athletes on both teams seemed to want an open game and I did my best to let the play continue as much as possible. Overall, the teams in this tournament possess great technical ability and speed, and I was looking forward to my games on Saturday.


Day 2

My first game started at 9 a.m. and was between the Under-17/18 Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls. I knew the match would be good. The officiating team did our pre-game and checked the players in.

The match began and it was off to the races we went. The first half included four fouls and two goals. The players seemed to be happy with the level at which we were calling the game.

During the second half, we had two cautions for unsporting behavior. I was amazed at some of the spot kicks the players took. Watch out, Beckham! You have some competition coming up behind you! I saw a shot that barely passed over the wall and hit the top right corner of the net. Awesome! The guys moved the ball so well. The game ended with a 4-0 score.

An assessor evaluates the referees after each match and we talk about the situations in the games. This is the developmental part of our “game” as referees. Here we have a chance to take constructive criticism and use it to better ourselves as professionals. We talked about what happened in the game and how we should work on improving our split-second responses. Experiences that happen in the game allow us to be better prepared to react the next time a similar situation happens. It’s a good learning experience for the referees. That’s what helps the referee improve. This tournament has been helpful because we are getting feedback on the decisions we are making from minds that have been there and know this incredible game.

After assessments it is nice to go out and watch other referees call their games. There is so much talent here! Any information you can obtain by watching or talking to any of the U.S. Soccer family is priceless.

-M.J.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Week in Review - Week 8

ussoccer.com has Referee Week in Review - Week 8. Listen to the full podcast here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Week in Review - Week 6

Check out the latest episode of ussoccer.com's Referee Week in Review. Brian Hall sits down to discuss all the goings on in MLS in Week 6 of the podcast. Follow along with the audio by looking at the talking points in the text version of Week in Review.

Listen to the full show here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Assessing Referees in Tijuana, Pt. 3

Expect the unexpected! A theme that has become synonymous with officiating. Well, Tuesday brought the unexpected and, for most of us, it caught us off guard. CONCACAF decided to cancel the semifinal, final and third place game of the U-17 championships in Tijuana, Mexico. It was determined that the potential negative effects from the swine flu virus and the health of the participants outweighed the need to complete the games. As it was, all of the final four participants (United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras) had qualified for the U-17 World Cup anyway.

At 3:10pm, after a 10:30am organization meeting to plan the balance of the tournament’s activities, the unexpected happened: I received notification that I would be leaving for San Diego airport at 4:00pm. In other words, I had 50 minutes to pack. That was the fastest I have moved since I hung my boots up.

All referees, players and tournament administrators were heading home without delay. An unexpected decision but one that seemed to make sense.

It was a disappointing moment for the five referees and five assistant referees that had been selected to stay through the final and it must have been devastating for the players and teams. To have worked so hard and then not have the opportunity to show your “stuff” in the final round is an emotional let down. As officials, we have to learn to train ourselves to be able to manage the emotional and performance-related ups and downs associated with our job as a match official. This is much easier said than done.

I can remember many a sleepless night hitting myself over the head over a decision. Playing, replaying, replaying and replaying the situation over and over and asking myself, “Why?”, “Was there a better way?”, “How do I get it right next time?” This is part of the passion each of you have for what is, for the majority of you, a “professional avocation” -- not a professional job. It is amazing how much officials care! How much we can allow an avocation to trap our mind in an endless circle of questioning ourselves. It is funny but this is what makes referees a special breed. We beat ourselves up more than the media, more than the players, more than the coaches and more than the spectators. All for the love of the game and a few sore knees and stiff muscles.

Despite the early end to a tournament in which the U.S. team sparkled (check out some of the goals they scored over on the YNT Blog - they were classics), it was a great opportunity to see many young and/or new referees and assistant referees from around CONCACAF compete in a challenging tournament. There were match officials representing the following countries: USA, Canada, Mexico, Guyana, Belize, Jamaica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Barbados, Panama and Cuba. My Spanish (probably better described as “spanglish”) was really tested. I had lots of empty stares and often wondered why people were snickering after some of my attempts at Spanish.

I hope that many of you take the opportunity to attend a tournament or a U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase event in which mentoring and feedback is offered especially the level at which it is provided at the Development Academy Showcases. This is an invaluable opportunity to not only learn from your own games but to learn from the experiences and feedback provided others. I look forward to seeing you on the field!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Assessing Referees in Tijuana, Pt. 2

Sunday brought an end to the first round or group phase of the U-17 CONCACAF championships. This means four teams get to stay for the final round (semi-finals, final and third place game) while others must return home. This same is true for the referees. This is a sad time for officials as some of those that will return home have performed at a high level and the team of participating referees will be losing a friend and a “family” member. Many factors go into deciding who the lucky and unlucky ones are. Some of the factors are: the teams that have advanced, the official’s performance, the fit between the refs and the remaining teams and the projected match ups. Despite this being a sad time, it is part of the life of an elite referee.

Because the USA has advanced (and done so in convincing fashion), our representative, FIFA assistant referee Chris Strickland, will be returning to the States. Chris worked his second game yesterday when he was Assistant Referee 1 during Mexico's game against Costa Rica (Mexico won 1-0 on an own goal). Everyone can be proud of the manner in which Chris represented the U.S. Soccer family.

Today, I want to briefly discuss some of the issues that have been covered in the daily briefings with the referees. If you follow U.S. Soccer’s “Week in Review” (the 2008 version as well as this season’s), you will see that that Laws of the Game are truly universal. The issues we face at this tournament, or at any level for that matter, are issues that referees face in the United States. Here are a few of the major topics covered. As I said, most should sound familiar if you follow the “Week in Review” found at ussoccer.com.

1. The importance of details: Little things like the correct completion of the game report is critical. Each member of the referee team needs to review the game report prior to the referee signing and submitting it.

2. Managing the technical areas: Ensuring the behavior of the coaching staff is responsible is a big deal. Coaches must behave responsibly (note, in the U.S. we use the “ask, tell, remove” principle). Also, all personnel on the bench must be dressed differently from the players on the field. Consequently, all players on the bench must wear bibs and coaches who are standing must have a different shirt than either of the two teams. This is important so that Assistant Referee 2 (directly opposite one of the team benches) does not get confused when deciding offside.

3. Getting 100% misconduct correct: In the U.S., we have adopted the concept of 100% misconduct. It is interesting how the concept is applied in a major tournament just as U.S. Soccer is teaching. It has been stressed that a yellow card offense is a yellow card offense and a red card offense is a red card offense regardless of the time and the score. These 100% misconduct situations cannot be managed solely by the referee’s personality. They are situations in which the actions and/or Laws of the Game mandate the issuing of a card.

4. Proper positioning to make the correct call: U.S. Soccer has been teaching the importance of maximizing the referee’s angle of vision throughout the game. At this tournament, we have been stressing that referees must move on the field to ensure they are close to play but they must also be positioned so they have a clear vision of each challenge. Referees should position themselves so they are not looking at the back of players. They should try to position themselves so they can always see space or light between the two opposing players. This will enhance the referee’s ability to get the call correct.

5. Personality and presence: Just as it is taught in the U.S., referees must establish an early presence in the game by sending appropriate message. Lots of time has gone into examining how the participating referees can use their physical attributes and personality to manage the game and steer the game in a positive direction.

As I said above, soccer is a universal game with universal Laws. Consequently, Referees around the world face the same challenges that referees in the United States face. It is interesting to see similar solutions and methods are being taught regardless of national association.It’s been a long and tiring seven days thus far. With the semifinals and final just around the corner, it will be interesting to see how the officials adapt to the increased pressure. There is a young but eager and conscientious group of officials working this tournament. They have been taking positive steps from game to game and match day to match day. They are learning from their games and from the games of other officials. This is critical and is a sign of a solid referee.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Assessing Referees in Tijuana

"Hola" from south of the border! I'm in Tijuana, Mexico, where U. S. Soccer has given me the opportunity to accept CONCACAF’s appointment as a Referee Assessor for the U17 Championships. I have been in Tijuana since Monday, April 20. I will be here through the final of the tournament which is scheduled for May 2.

Joining me as U.S. Soccer’s match official representative is FIFA Assistant Referee Chris Strickland. Over the next week, I will periodically blog to give you a taste of what is occurring on the referee side of a major tournament. Sorry, no critique of referee performances here - just information that will pique your interest and give you a flavor of what the referees are going through and what I am doing as a Referee Assessor.

First, let me draw a picture for you so you can understand the environment the officials face. Games are held at the two-year-old Estadio Caliente. And let me tell you, the stadium has lived up to its name. On the first day of games, temperatures were in the 90s. I am told the 13,300 seat stadium has Central America’s only 2-star approved artificial turf field….so, you can imagine the on-field temperature for Tuesday’s match-ups. Games are held at 1:30 and 4:00pm (two games daily) as Estadio Caliente does not have lights. It is a great venue for games. The spectators are close to the action and the stadium is the right size to create an entertaining environment.

The stadium is home to a Mexican Second Division team called Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles De Caliente (do not ask me to pronounce it, as even Spanish speakers have troubles doing so) [Editor: The pronunciation is "sho-lo-ee-tsqueen-tles" and yes, we struggled tremendously with that]. Xoloitzcuintle is a breed of hairless dogs. Check out the picture that I have included. It is taken just outside the referee’s dressing room.

CONCACAF has assigned two Referee Assessors, a fitness trainer and an instructor to the tournament. For a major tournament like this, the staffing ensures all 20 referees have a support cast similar to the participating teams. This team format for officials has only been in place for the last year. It is amazing how much more attention match officials are receiving when compared to just a few years ago.

In this blog, I will give you a brief synopsis of the daily schedule so that you can get a feel for what occurs at a CONCACAF tournament (and FIFA tournaments for that matter).

6:30am: Bus leaves for training at the stadium (10 minute drive).

6:30 – 8:00am: A morning training session. Training consists of either fitness training that incorporates movements by the referee/assistant referee, technical training to review/correct issues that have been noted during the games or a combination of both. Referees who work the games that day are not required to attend as their rest is paramount.

8:00 – 9:15am: Breakfast.

9:15 – 11:00am: Game review. The referee assessors review the performances of the match officials. Once the review by the assessor is completed, the instructor reviews incidents using the game DVDs and provides solutions/recommendations.

11:45am: The referee crew for the first game (1:30pm) leaves for the stadium.

1:30 – 7:00pm: Games and time at the stadium completing paperwork.

8:00pm: Dinner.

As you can see, there is really no free time. Referees and the referee support team are constantly working. Even when they are not “officially working,” the exchange amongst the referees and staff is in full gear. Sometimes, these moments provide the best learning opportunities.

The structure of this tournament, for referees, is not unlike many of the Referee Training events (or Academies as they were once called) held by U.S. Soccer. Game review, performance analysis, technical training, and physical training are often components provided referees who participate in similar settings whether they be at the youth, amateur or professional level.

Stay tuned. Next blog we will discuss some of the “lessons learned” by the referees who are participating in the tournament. See how the issues faced by referees at the top compare to the issues addressed week in and week out in U.S. Soccer’s “Week In Review” found at ussoccer.com.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Week in Review - Week 3

Listen ussoccer.com's Referee Week in Review for Week 3 here.

You can also follow along with U.S. Soccer's manager of referee assessment and training Brian Hall by checking out the full Week in Review document here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Opening Day in Colorado

It is an honor to be appointed to a home opener and the last thing you think about as a referee is SNOW! Well, luckily it is part of my person to check the weather before traveling. It doesn’t matter if it is for business or pleasure. I think most people follow this practice…you have got to know how to pack!
After opening San Jose during week 1 and wearing short sleeves I figured Colorado had something good in store for me. It was Tuesday morning and the forecast was calling for snow lots of snow. When I moved from Chicago to California last year, part of my reasoning was to get out of the Chicago winters. When I started tracking the weather on Tuesday I found out that Colorado had some Chicago winter waiting for me. The forecast was calling for 8 to 16 inches for Friday and sunshine on Saturday (game day).

When I left home for the airport, I was not sure I would make it to my destination. Thankfully, I was only delayed by one hour and greeted by 10 inches of snow. It is not typical, but I was advised to visit the stadium on the morning of the game. Not only did I visit but I took some pictures to share with everyone. I enjoyed taking them and of course enjoyed throwing a few snow balls at the boys.
All I have to say is the grounds crew at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park are amazing. When I arrived at the stadium there was no snow on the field. I don’t like to wear cleats while I referee and during the day I figured I would be wearing the studs. Because of the grounds crew, I left the studs in the bag and wore the runners. Bring on the snow for this California boy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Serving Our Country

As I sit at my laptop and listen to music I am very comfortable. The reason is because so many men and women serve our country so we can be free and safe. We have all heard that freedom is not free and this is true. These men and women that serve us full time here in our country and on foreign soil are not thanked enough. I would like to say thank you to these men and women for what they do for each one of us. This past week I was able to spend time with just a few of these service men and women as I was given the opportunity to serve the military in what is my specialty, refereeing.

I took a crew with me and we worked the Continental Soccer Championship’s (CISM) of the America’s played at Dyess Air Force base in Abilene, Texas. The event started Feb. 18 and concluded on Feb. 28. The US crew (Salazar/Strickland/Vasoli) worked the opening night game between Canada and Brazil. We worked everyday; I either refereed or worked as a fourth official during each day. The AR’s also worked every day, getting only one day off when no games were played that day. This day was designated as “Culture” day and we definitely got our share of culture, the highlight of which was eating a real Texas barbecue. It was a fantastic experience!

This was the 3rd continental championships I have been involved with. The first event I was at was in the U.S. at Ft. Eustis Virginia (2000). The second event I was at was in Victoria, British Columbia (2005).

It was a long event but I was able to see and learned many new things (apart from refereeing). One of the coolest things was at this base they host the school for our B1 Bombers. The have over 35 bombers and they take off and land all day and all night. In this photo, I am with a B1 that is just amazing. We were lucky enough to have a B-1 give us a fly by during the opening ceremony.

I get to referee the best football in our country and on occasion I get to do an international game. This event isn’t completely about the football. It is about replacing the battle field with the playing field. Yes, every team wants to win but only one took the GOLD and it wasn’t the US team. That is okay, because I can tell you that all the athletes were competitive and I enjoyed working and watching them compete. I have stood on the field with some of the best players in the world. This week I stood on the field with my heroes. The men and women that put their lives on the line so I can sit here and write this story. They give me the piece of mind, that when I go on my next trip I am able to travel safely and I know my family will be safe until I return. So, the next time you see someone in uniform just simply say thank you and shake their hand because they are the true heroes!

- Ricardo Salazar

Friday, March 13, 2009

Getting Ready for the MLS Season

It is important to pick the right location and appropriate conditions for the best physical results, so I choose Big Bear Moutain, one of Southern California’s largest peaks. I stayed four days in a different environment than what I’m usually used to, where the weather conditions were 35 degrees at an altitude of over 7,000 feet.

Day One: I started with light training, due to the fact that I was in a different environment and allowed my body can little by little adjust to the conditions. My warm-up consisted on 15 minutes of dynamic flexibility, with abdominal crunches, hand to foot flexibility repetitions, and leg squats. After warming up, my body was ready for the next step.
My run consisted of 40 minutes at 50 percent, in which I felt my body was adjusting to the climate, and with every mile I felt stronger. I ran approximately 3 ½ miles. To finish my training session I continued my stretching exercise for 20 minute - simple straight leg stretches, side lunge adductions, and overhead reaches.

Day Two: I increased my training intensity and my warm-up was different compared to the first day. I did running sequences like forward sprints, backward sprints, and lateral agility maneuvers for 20 minutes. After that I ran for 30 minutes up the mountain, approximately 2 ½ miles. I choose a different incline from the first day to increase workout intensity and test my leg strength resistance. My cool-down consisted about the same as the first day.

Day Three: I returned to the flat ground, like the first day and I started with warm-up exercises that stretched my muscles to take away some of the soreness that I had form the previous day. Such as hamstring stretches, kneeling quadriceps stretches, and Lying adductors. I ran high intensity interval duration with 10 repetitions of 400 meters at 70 percent and recovered 2 minutes every repetition. My cool-down consisted of jogging for approximately 20 minutes to finish my session.

Day Four: This was my recuperation day based around my aerobic recovery training for about 30 minutes. I did all types of exercises: forward lunges, 1x20 reps each leg with 30 seconds rest, backward lunge 1x 20reps each leg, push-up knee to chest 3x15 reps and with 45 second rest between sets. After this exercise I jogged for 20 minutes in flat ground at 40 percent to finish my last section of four days of training.

Training under these conditions is going to help your body deal with different altitude changes and weather conditions without affecting your performance. I hope this can help some other referees for their training as we move towards the MLS season.

- Baldomero Toledo

Checking in from T&T - "Come on USA!"

Let me just start by saying “COME ON U.S.!” This was something I would yell in my room as I followed our team on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker. My roommate from Honduras joined me cheering during the second game. (It took him a little getting used to but he came around). The referees were told that if your country made it thru to the semifinal round then those referees would be sent home. This is kind of a double-edge sward, but it did not stop me from cheering on our boys. I was happy to see our boys not only in the semis but now in the finals……COME ON U.S.!

Because you might get sent home after one game, you as a referee have to make sure you impress in what could be your only chance. The game that we were appointed to, Trinidad & Tobago vs Costa Rica, went very well. Our game was sold out with standing room only mostly because the home team was playing and needed to win. The game ended in a draw 0-0 and T&T played with a man advantage for 39 minutes bu the ome team couldn’t finish the game. We got very good reviews from the bosses, but knew we wouldn’t get another game as a referee. We were appointed to T&T/Mexico where I was the 4th and CJ was Assistant Referee. After this game we had a late night dinner back in the hotel and at this time they handed you an itinerary. This is there was of saying you are going home and my flight was at 7 a.m. My eparture was dark and early from the hotel, 4:30 a,m. as this was an international flight.

COME ON U.S.!!!!!

- Ricardo Salazar

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cross-Training with Terry Vaughn

Today is a cross-training day. This is important so you ensure you are doing different types of training to improve your overall fitness and cross-training shouldn't just be about running. You should still get your heart rate up, but be sure to also work on speed, agility, hand eye coordination, and/or strength. For example, you could also play other sports like racquetball, basketball, or soccer.

Today I am doing hill training for my cross-training. I am lucky as I have a big hill for my driveway (the guys I train with love the hill). When you are going to do hills you have to make sure you go through a good warm-up, 10-15 minutes, because you are going to be stressing your body on the inclines. Once you are warm, start at the bottom and sprint as fast as you can to the top. Walk back down for your recovery and do it all over again. In this work out I start by doing 10 hills.

When doing hills you need to make sure you are taking short, quick steps. Be sure to pump your arms strong to help drive up the knees. On the way down you need to take longer but controlled steps. With hills you will be able to get your heart rate up faster, due to the increase in the workload the incline causes. This way you are working on the strength factor, to help improve your strength. As a result, you will find that you won't get injured as easily when you stress your body in the matches or training.

This also a good interval work out. Going up the hill will raise your heart rate rapidly, and then coming down will give you some recovery, like in a game you have to sprint the whole length of the field and then you can jog and so on. We are lucky to been given the Polar heart rate watches that help us see our heart rate and if we are not working hard enough we can adjust the workout immediately, so we get feedback right way to make sure we are getting the most out of our work out. It also has a feature where we down load it to our computer and we can check our work out like how high heart rate was, our recovery time. This helps you for the next work out to know if you need to adjust your work out to get the most out of it.

With all of this we are getting the body ready for the season practicing hard in training. This way, when you go do it on the field you are ready. Just like before, when we had to do a good warm up, you need to do a good cool down to make sure your body can recover properly without injury. This all helps with getting the lactic acids out of the muscles. Be for finishing, work on flexibility at the very end. Hope this helps you in your preparation. Stay healthy.

- Terry Vaughn

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Live from Trinidad

Before the start of the U-20 CONCACAF Championship in Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. Soccer full-time referee Ricardo Salazar checked in from the Caribbean...

Well, as our U20 team is here on the island of Tobago I am Trinidad ready for the tournament to start. CJ Morgante and I are here representing U.S. referees. Most everyone arrived on Wednesday and we had referee meetings. We covered many things to make sure we are all on the same page. We watched video clips and the instructors commented on what was done correctly and what could have been handled differently. All clips were taken from CONCACAF’s Champions League and I made two of the many clips. As a referee you don’t want to see yourself on the big screen, but fortunately they mostly had good things to say. It is funny, as you are sitting in this room they just start the clip and you have no idea what is coming. It isn’t that bad as they are using the clips to better the referees.

Today, we had a light day. After breakfast, we relaxed by the pool. The major task of the day was going to inspect the stadium. We got to see the stadium and get a workout in as we have a few days before games start here in Trinidad. CJ and I work on Monday, Trinidad and Tobago against Costa Rica. One of the most difficult things while at these tournaments is waiting for you match. I have Match 4 in our group….this means I have to sit through three games before getting to work. It would be nice to work the first day but it is also nice to see the teams and figure out how teams are playing. I will scout the teams that I will referee just like a coach would if he was getting ready to play that team. Some of the things I will be looking for: formations, creative players, hard players among others. I will be checking in as the days go on so check back in a few days. The weather is nice here ; )

Ricardo Salazar from Trinidad

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

RefTalk with Ricardo Salazar

Every business man knows that communication is key to success and in our business as referees it is no different. In 2009 U.S. Soccer invited all the top referees from around the country to “Pro Camp.” This took place in Orlando from Feb. 5-8. At this camp we did many things, including obtaining our communication devices for the upcoming MLS season. These communication devices (RefTalk) are new to most referees in our country. I am a firm believer that you don’t wait for a game to try out something new, so I have been wearing RefTalk while training to get the feel before I step out onto the field.

Last Wednesday The Pan Pacific Championship started in LA at the Home Depot Center. I was the referee for the first game and was able to test out RefTalk officially before using it in MLS. I found that we needed to account for more time when getting dressed before the match. It takes a little longer to get dressed and ready not that we have so many things to put on. You might be asking, “What things?” Well, at the pro camp we also started to wear hart rate monitors and we already wear the receiver for the beep flags. I hope there are not any electrical storms close to where I will be working.


During the game, the RefTalk came in handy on a couple occasions. In the first half, I had three cautions to one team and then I had a yellow card handed to me on a silver platter. As I was pulling the yellow card out my fourth official confirmed my decision from his angle. The fourth official was not making the decision he was only reinforcing my decision. The RefTalk was used to give extra time at the end of each half. It was also used to confirm who cautions were issued to when the AR and 4th were not 100 percent sure.

The next event was kind of embarrassing on my part but in the end we got it correct. At the close of the first half #2 on the blue was cautioned for unsporting behavior. At the open of the second half #2 orange commits a tactical foul. I showed him the yellow card the immediately showed him the red card. The problem was I mixed the two #2’s up and this was only the first YC for orange #2. When the red card came out the near AR immediately keyed into my RefTalk and let me know it was that #2’s first caution. I had to clarify that the red card was not valid to 11 upset players that didn’t speak the same language. It is amazing how you can communicate when you don’t know the same language.

So, needless to say I believe the RefTalk will be a positive tool for us referees this year in the MLS. I hope training is going well and everyone is looking forward to the spring.

- Ricardo

For a Good Cause

There are many ways to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. I was fortunate to be in my hometown this past weekend to participate in our Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. With this illness hitting close to home with my friends and family, I was very happy to represent U.S Soccer in the 5k competitive run. I know perhaps this is a small effort but I know I can contribute in some meaningful way in fighting this disease on a personal and professional front.


Susan G.Komen for the Cure
is the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested more than $1 billion since the foundation's inception in 1982. As the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, they are working together to save lives, empower people, and ensure quality care for all while helping energize science to find the cure. Through events like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and generous contributions from partners, sponsors and fellow supporters, they have become the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.

- Jair Marrufo

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fitness Tips and "Over-training"

Fitness is a must when it to refereeing, and we have to prepare ourselves to pass the fitness test for the season. We have to build our conditioning so that as the season progresses we remain healthy and in peak condition at the right time of the year. We have to be careful just doing the bare minimum to get by the new fitness test. Doing extra training will ensure that if you become sick, or it is cold, hot, rainy, you have good conditioning in order to get through those not so perfect situations. My advice on the new fitness test is to “over-train,” reducing the amount of rest time and/or doing extra laps. This is going to prepare you for success and make this test a lot easier.

The new fitness test I have been referring to is:

Six 40 yard sprints at 6.2 seconds

The interval run is done on a track
Run 150 yards in 30 sec

Recovery in 50 yards over 35 sec

You do this 2 times on the track for one lap

(10 laps is the minimum)



My workout today was refreshing. We finally got rid of the snow, but the field is still too wet to run on, so I did a version of the new fitness test on the track. You cut everything in half, so it goes like this:

Run 75 yards in 15 sec

25 yards in 15 sec recovery (for the math teachers: yes, this is not right. But this another area in which I over-train for the test. Instead of taking a 35 sec recovery, I do 30 sec. if you want the real rest time it would be 17.5. There are a couple of other reasons for doing this beside over-training. First, it is easy to work on a watch using seconds that are either 15, 30, 45, or 60, as they are a lot easier to see on your while you're running. One nice feature I have on my watch is a timer that I can set up to nine different interval times then it will repeat. If I am only doing two different intervals, like in this work out, I put the times I need in and the watch will beep at each of the intervals and keep repeating until I stop. It’s a lot handier then trying to see small numbers on a watch as you run and get tired.

You can do this 4 times and that is one lap around the track. Today was 13 laps.

Fitness is one of the things that you can control in your life. This will not only help you get where you need to be on the field, but it will help with you health. Good luck with getting and staying fit.

- Terry Vaughn

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pro Camp Blog with Jair Marrufo

With 2009 Major league Soccer season around the corner, I attended our first pro camp in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. With the support that U.S soccer has been given for the past years it made this weekend very instrumental for the 2009 season to start off on the right track. I arrived on Thursday the 5th, flying in during the afternoon. Opening ceremonies were that night, along with orientation for the weekend, and I was very excited to catch up with my colleagues who I hadn't seen in a while. About 72 referees and assistant referees were in attendance. This was the first time a group this small attended a pro camp and it was very important that the top officials in the country were all in one place to prepare for the upcoming MLS season.Friday morning came fast, and my 5 am wake up call came even faster. At six, we all departed to Walt Disney World sports complex to take our FIFA Fitness test. With the temperature at 30 degrees that morning, I knew I would have take a little bit more time warming up. After our fitness test was over, we all went back to the hotel and started our new directives for 2009 set by the U.S Soccer Referee Department.
As Saturday rolled around we started early at 8 am to continue with the new directives that are very vital for our preparation for this year. The great thing about this weekend for me was how we got down to the nitty-gritty of refereeing. With Paul Tamberino and his staff making us feel very comfortable, we were able to speak very freely, sharing our opinions and comments. We were also helped by our referee friends from Canada, who were very vocal in sharing their thoughts and ideas with us. After lunch, we handed out awards to referees and assistant referees that officiated in their 100th game in MLS this past season. At the same time, I received my award for MLS Referee of the Year, an honor that I am extremely proud of. It's great that U.S Soccer has given myself and three others the opportunity to referee full time and that has really helped me focus on my referee career. We continued throughout the day with our new directives and we also watched a series of very important videos of plays from last year.
Sunday came and we started at 8 am again. Starting where we left off from Saturday, we finished with the last directives. We all knew it was going to be a short day because we were going to be dismissed at noon for our departures. When all the directives were done, we had a Q&A session with MLS and U.S Soccer where we voiced any concerns and raised any questions that we had for this past year and upcoming year.

For me, this camp was a tremendous success. I felt a camaraderie with everybody this weekend and I enjoyed catching up with those who I had not seen in a long time. The tremendous strides that Paul Tamberino and his referee department have made in these couple of years really showed this weekend, and we know that we will all be ready for the 2009 MLS Season.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Q&A - Jair Marrufo

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. In part one we talked to Baldomero Toledo and in part two we spoke to Terry Vaughn. For part three, Ricardo Salazar checked in. Now, for part four, here's Jair Marrufo answering a few questions with the Official Take Blog:

Official Take: How is refereeing in the cold different from refereeing a game in warm weather?

Jair Marrufo: There are many differences between the two. If its raining or windy, it could affect the flight of the ball. On the other hand, in some parts of our country it gets very hot and we have to get ready for heat and humidity.

OT: How does an official prepare to referee a game in the cold? Do you train in cold weather?

JM: To prepare for a cold game it takes a little bit more preparation. I usually train early in the morning when it a little colder and I take a more time warming up than usual. Instead of a twenty minute warm up, I take about 40 minutes of warming up and stretching. It really comes down to your mindset: I know as soon as I blow the whistle to start the game the cold is removed from my mind.

OT: What are a few helpful tips or reminders for referees who are going to ref a game in the cold?

JM: I can't stress enough the importance of a good warm up and stretch before a game. This is vital to prevent injuries. Don't forget to wear your your layers; it really helps. If you're an assistant referee, it's OK to wear gloves. I recommend stretching again at half time to prevent injuries.

OT: At what point do you bring out the yellow ball?

JM: The yellow ball is necessary when there is snow or fog. It helps tremendously for everyone (referees and players alike) and is useful for TV purposes.

OT: What about a "rivalry" game? There are these big derby games all around the world. How does one prepare for a game between the biggest of rivals?

JM: The preparation should be the same with all games, but for big rivalries we should keep in mind that it is more emotional for players who want to get that win over their biggest rival. In case of Mexico vs USA, I know I will never get to referee that match but I have been involved in many rivalries between MLS teams. Like players, I think referees get pumped up as well for big games like Chivas USA vs. Galaxy, Fire vs DC United, or FC Dallas vs. Dynamo. We all know the teams are coming out to win no matter what it takes and, for referees, we know we need to step up and also show our capabilities. Some factors you always consider are sold out crowds, team standings in the league, the various players, and the atmosphere in the stadium.

OT: What 'rivalry' games have you done that were unique? What sticks out in your mind about these games between big rivals?

JM: I have been involved in some great rivalry games here in MLS. The ones that stick out more in my mind are Galaxy vs. Chivas USA and Houston vs. Dallas. In LA, both teams reside in one city and they also share a stadium. Those factors make [the game] more compelling for bragging rights. [Both Houston and FCD] reside in the same state, four hours away, and games like this always sell out the stadiums. The atmosphere is tremendous and you always get goose bumps walking out of the tunnel.

Ricardo Salazar Checks In

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. In part one we talked to Baldomero Toledo and in part two we spoke to Terry Vaughn. For part three, Ricardo Salazar checks in with the Official Take Blog:

It seems that the weather is the current talk for the US/Mexico showdown on Feb. 11 in Columbus. What is interesting is that it turns out the weather may not be that bad and, even so, our sport is meant to be played during colder months. If you look anywhere else in the world leagues are going strong. In England, they have been hit with snow and frigid weather. The spin is our opponents are not accustomed to playing in colder weather. From a referee’s view point, he will not be used to colder weather coming from Central America. I am going to spend some time on what he should do to get himself ready to deal with not only the match but the elements.

First, the obvious: his fitness level has to be high because this game is going to be fast paced. It is going to be much faster for a couple reasons and the colder weather is one factor. Unlike warm/hot weather months the players endurance levels will not be affected as it would be during hot weather. The referee and his crew will have to be mentally ready for the
cold weather. When they arrive into Columbus they will need to spend sometime outdoors in the weather. On game day, the will need to get outside and go for a walk, and they shouldn't stay inside all day.

The weather is something every FIFA referee has to deal with during out career. When we go to Central American/Mexico or the Caribbean we have to deal with hot and humid weather weather. How do we deal with this? I will put on extra clothes while training. A wind suit or sweatshirt is good for getting the core temp elevated. Also, I will go into a steam room at the gym after working out and do my stretching in there.

Hydration is another important factor in both hot and cold weather. In the colder months I think we forget how important it is to stay hydrated. Not only does the referee crew have to hydrate for the game, they have to deal with the effects of traveling. When flying all day, the body hydration level is affected. This must be looked after do the effects on the body are kept to a minimal.

The bottom line is yes it is different referee in cold weather then during the warmer months. The key is how you prepare for each game had to be different. The referee crew must prepare mentally as well as physically for every game to be successful. I like to have a second change of uniform so at halftime I can change into fresh dry gear. It is important to be co
mfortable after halftime. If you are wet from sweating during the first half the referee will not be comfortable to start the second half. This could effect his concentration level which isn’t a good thing.

Now lets get on with the game! We all know that USA/Mexico is the biggest rivalry in CONCACAF. It's funny because anytime anyone [else in CONCACAF] plays either of these two teams it is the biggest game for them, so this is the game everyone looks forward to see. For the referee it is a big honor to be appointed to this game. The referee for this day is not a rookie to this match up. He has seen and done this big game many times.; the players will know him and he will know the players. Not only is it a big game for the players and the respected countries but also for the referee and he has to perform at a high level and prove that he belongs at the World Cup. Currently there are five men on that list from CONCACAF and I can guarantee you that if we get three selected we will be lucky. So the spotlight will be on him also to perform at a high level. One mistake and he can loose his spot.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Q&A - Terry Vaughn

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. In part one we talked to Baldomero Toledo. In part 2 below, we speak with Terry Vaughn.

Official Take: How is refereeing in the cold different from refereeing a game in warm weather?


Terry Vaughn: Weather is a factor that we have to deal with every time we do a match outdoors. One of the keys to refereeing in any weather is to know that it is coming. Do your homework and know what the weather will be so you can bring the appropriate layers. If you are dealing with the cold, you need to have a cold gear tight shirt and shorts and then layer on top of that. Hand warmers are also a good thing to have.

You also need to make sure your warm up is efficient, as this helps get the body ready to work. You have to make sure you are ready so you do not pull a muscle with the cold. Lots of times you will do your run outside and then come back to the locker room to finish up your stretching.

When you are dealing with a bitterly cold environment, you have to be careful with your pen ink freezing and not working. When it is cold, I often use a pencil and I make sure that I have plenty of space to write, because by the end of the match I can not straighten my fingers to hold on to the pencil correctly, so it becomes writing with a closed fist. I make sure the rest of the crew records everything even more carefully knowing that the cold can cause by my to fingers to freeze up.

I do not use a pea in my whistle, but I know that when I used to I would have issues with it freezing to the side of the whistle because of the moisture. Referees that still use metal whistles find that they stick to the skin and tongue in the cold, so it is best to use a plastic whistle.

People from places where it is cold will tell you the trick to staying warm is not getting cold in the first place. Once you get cold it takes awhile to warm up, so try to keep that in mind when you are preparing to dress for this kind of cold.

Once you blow the whistle to start the game, it is like a switch and you have to forget about how cold you feel.

OT: How does an official prepare to referee a game in the cold? Do you train in cold weather?

TV: If it was warm where I lived and I had to go to a cold climate I would try to get a couple work outs in a air conditioned work out room (not the beach) and try to help help the body get a bit of an adjustment to the cold. You have to put the weather and the cold out of your mind so it does not become a distraction during the game. Your mind needs to be thinking about the issues of the match.


OT: Is it similar to, say, running or refereeing a game at high altitude?

TV: Yes, this is a good way of looking at. There a few things you can do to help, but the biggest is making sure you are fit to help your body deal with these extreme conditions.

OT: Can you think of an example from a game in the cold where a situation was either new to you or unexpected? How did you react?

TV: One of my first MLS centers was in Chicago in April [ed. note: when the Fire were still playing at Soldier Field], and a cold front came through. It dropped the temperature, the wind was blowing hard off the Lake and it poured rain the whole game (at one point it looked like it was raining horizontally). It was so cold and always threatening to snow, but I dug down and ran more to help me stay warm and focused. The lesson I learned was to make sure to have a change of uniforms for half time.

OT: What are a few helpful tips or reminders for referees who are going to ref a game in the cold?

TV: One important thing to keep in mind is when someone gets kicked or bumped when it is cold it feels different. In the cold weather, it is like everything is magnified and it hurts more. If the ground is frozen this effects a few things, for example when a player falls to the ground it will hurt more then usual. The bounce of the ball may be different, usually higher, and the traction for players' cleats will be different. All these things will effect how the game is played.

Keeping all these in mind will help you understand and be ready for things that may not be as obvious in the warm weather. If you see a player slipping or unable to get traction, good preparation can make you better equipped to adjust.

OT: At what point do you bring out the yellow ball?

TV: Once the players and my crew begin having issues with seeing the ball, we will bring out the yellow one. This is a last resort.

OT: What about a "rivalry" game? There are these big derby games all around the world. How does one prepare for a game between the biggest of rivals?

TV: Before and during these games you have to be prepared for everything. There is so much that takes place with gamesmanship, and in these types of games it happens even more because of the past interactions between them. Neither side wants to let down their fans. You have to work hard because it is going to take every bit of your fitness and your refereeing tools to make one of these games a successful match.

Do your homework so you are not surprised when something happens. If you have already prepared yourself for what may happen, you will be able to stay on top of their every move. You need to watch these teams on TV or tape so you know the team style and tendencies. This will help you become familiar with the goalscorers, the holding midfielders, the speedy player, the enforcers, and the playmakers. You'll also know if there are players missing due to injury or suspension.

Find out where the rivalry comes from, where it is today and who may be doing the trash talking in the media to stir the pot even more. Not only do you have to have all of that in your head, but you will also have to work hard in the game because it is going to take every bit of your fitness and your refereeing tools to make this a successful match.

OT: What 'rivalry' games have you done that were unique? What sticks out in your mind about these games between big rivals?

TV: Costa Rica playing away to Guatemala. As we drove to the stadium they had the roads blocked off for miles and there were fans everywhere more than two hours before kickoff. When we made it to the stadium and walked the field, the stands were full already. It turned out that all those people outside were just hanging around to be part of the game, but were not going to be in the stadium. Those fans outside the stadium also kept the Costa Rica bus from making to the stadium on time. Their locker room was locked and it took a while for them to find the key, both before and at half time. We made a decision before the match, that we were not coming out until the away team did.

During the game, any time a player from Costa Rica would go toward the sideline or toward the corner flag for a corner kick they were targeted with who knows what. The organizers had all the Costa Rican fans in one corner fenced off from the others, and whenever a Guatemalan player would take a corner kick on that side, about ten military officers would run over with their shields raised to protect the player from being hit by anything. The policed did not do this for when Costa Rica would take a corner.

In those games, you realize that all the chanting and songs definitely make for a home field advantage.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Q&A - Baldomero Toledo

This month there's a big game happening. You may have heard about it? You also may have heard about the cold weather, which has played a memorable part in the USA-Mexico rivalry in the past. With these things in mind, this month we're asking U.S. Soccer's full-time referees about officiating games in the cold and taking charge of games between heated rivalries. First up, Baldomero Toledo.

Official Take: How is refereeing in the cold different from refereeing a game in warm weather?

Baldomero Toledo: You take a game in the cold with the same responsibility [as one in any weather], and the only thing that changes is your game preparation. In cold weather you have to take into consideration your warm-up time in order to prevent injuries. In warm weather, you just follow your normal routine and always focus on the game but in a cold weather game you must prepare more.
OT: How does an official prepare to referee a game in the cold? Training in cold weather?

BT: As referees we normally have to train in climates similar to where the game will be played in order to get used to the specific environment. If we have the opportunity to find a similar climate in the area that we live in it will help. You can always adjust your training to different times of day, whether it's cooler or hotter, and do your workouts accordingly.

OT: Can you think of an example from a game in the cold where a situation was either new to you or unexpected? How did you react?

BT: I remember a game the last MLS season in the second week of April in Chicago. It was between Chicago and New England. The temperature changed from 55 degrees (the day before the game) to 38 degrees (the day of the game). It was quite windy, which probably made the temperature even colder out on the field. It didn't help that the temperature which I was used to back home was in the low 70’s! I reacted by changing my warm up routine to prevent injuries and I prepared myself mentally to make sure that my decisions in the game wouldn't affect my performance.

OT: What are a few helpful tips or reminders for referees who are going to ref a game in the cold?

BT: Try to train in a similar climate as in the game. Change your warm up routine and make it a little longer to prevent injuries. Also, be mentally prepared to get into the game as soon as possible


OT: What about a "rivalry" game? There are these big derby games all around the world. How does one prepare for a game between the biggest of rivals?

BT: As a referee you need to know the story of both teams, their style of play, results of the games between both teams from last couple of years, and what is at stake in this particular game. You have to know the players of each team. You need to recognize the skillful players and the troublemakers (every team has them!) and how to deal with them on time in order to keep the game under control.
OT: Are there extra factors you have to consider in these cases, especially if it is a World Cup qualifier?

BT: Of course you have to keep in mind that both teams will come to play this game with the mentality to get the result no matter what. In these games, teams will try to put pressure on the referee every time they have the opportunity, sometimes they will try to simulate fouls outside the box to get the chance to score the goal. The referee has to be mentally prepared to deal with those issues that come up in the tough games.

OT: What 'rivalry' games have you done that were unique? What sticks out in your mind about these games between big rivals?

I remember one MLS playoff game two years ago, when Dallas played at Houston. The previous game finished 1-0 in favor of Dallas, and in the second game Houston beat Dallas 3-1, to eliminate Dallas from the playoffs. That was one of the most unforgettable games that I’ve done in my career so far and the atmosphere of Robertson Stadium was amazing. Just a couple of months ago, I did Jamaica against Mexico at the Azteca Stadium. I still remember the atmosphere of the stadium (which had 120,000 spectators) and the commitment of the players. It was an unforgettable game in my career as a referee.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another Cold Day Workout - "Ladders"

It is another cold snowy day in Iowa where it is unsafe to be outside, so today I am working out inside. I will be using the Elliptical machine for the replacement of running. I have found the Elliptical gives a close simulation of running, and has lower impact on the joints. This helps to keep the body from getting beat up from running's constant pounding on the body

When I work out inside I wear sweatpants to help keep my body warm and if I have control over the heat in the room, I can turn it up to also help with this. I also get bored easily, so I recommend having a TV in the room for you to watch. In my opinion, it is a great opportunity to watch games.

Today is a high intensity day, and the workout I will be doing is called “Ladders.”

I set the level of the ramps to 6 on my elliptical - this is the setting that will work the entire leg.

The resistance is at 1 or 2, and this will simulate running. It is important that you get a lot of turnover, and not be slowed down fighting a high resistance. We can talk about using high resistance for a different type of work out in the future.

Start out with a 10 minute warm-up at a constant speed, and, as you feel warmer, you can start to work in some short changes of speeds to prepare you for the work out.

For this work out you will have a highwork out rate of 85% for an interval followed by the same amount of recovery time. Do not stop, you need to be at about 50% on your recovery.

So here is the workout:

  • 30 seconds high / 30 seconds recovery
  • 1 minute high / 1 minute recovery
  • 2 minute high / 2 minute recovery
  • 2 minute high / 2 minute recovery
  • 1 minute high / 1 minute recovery
  • 30 seconds high / 30 seconds recover

Repeat this as necessary. Today I did four sets.

Some of you may say you might not be this far into your fitness program level or others may be further. This is an easy work out to modify. You can do this by adding or subtracting sets. For example, you can add a 3 min rep or you can subtract out a rep. The key is that you have to push yourself on the reps to get the results.

Make sure cool down for 10 minutes with the Elliptical, and then get in a good stretch. I also add weightlifting in after this workout, but that will be discussed in a future blog. Good luck staying fit!
-Terry