Chad Marshall recently made news with his tweeted response to a Sporting Kansas City fan. He was accused of ignoring one of soccer's most interesting traditions, returning the ball after a player is injured.
The fan who goes by Torre (@MCNeckbeard) on twitter was angry that Marshall didn't play the ball back to SKC after a stopped ball. Well, Torre got it wrong, but it's certainly not his fault. Referee David Gantar made things more difficult than they needed to be.
Here is where I dig into the play far more than needed to answer a question that no one asked "Was Marshall in the wrong on the play in question?":
The play happened just after Jairo Arrieta and Matt Besler collided in the 32nd minute. Gantar didn't stop play initially, despite Besler leading with his shoulder into Arrieta and Arrieta struggling to get up. SKC picked up the loose ball and passed it around the back line.
Arrieta laid prone on the ground as Gantar came up to assess the situation. It was at this time the play was stopped. When the ball was whistled dead, Kansas City had the ball near midfield, 20 yards from the site of contact.
Gantar conversed with a visibly upset Arrieta who took his time getting up. The trainer was never called on to the field so Jairo moved forward with Eddie Gaven.
The ball had made it's way back to the site of contact with Marshall standing over the ball. Gantar then made a sign for an indirect free kick and to wait for his whistle to resume play. To top it off, he had words with Besler about the play.
Our Sporting Kansas City fan who alerted us to this clearly mistook the situation. He admittedly had a few drinks, but even to a fully sober fan, the situation was odd. Gantar obviously saw nothing wrong with the play initially and let play continue for nearly 10 seconds before checking on the prone Arrieta. It was only then he stopped play.
From the casual observer, it certainly looked like play was stopped for a head injury and the ball should be, by tradition, returned to the team with possession. Why else wait so long to stop play.
Instead a foul call points to two other reasons, both focus on Gantar. Either Gantar was swayed by Arrieta's slowness to get up, or his Assistant Referee had seen the play and called the foul, but it took Gantar nearly 10 seconds to check his AR and make the call.
Gantar is one of the new crop of MLS referees. He gained his FIFA badge last year and a learning curve it to be expected. Some referees are singled out when a call is missed. Ultimately he made the right call, even if it took 10 seconds and twitter hilarity was the result.
Marshall did the right thing, but he was there to hear the ref's explanation. That was something those in the stands didn't get to hear.