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PRO assigns veteran crew to referee MLS Cup Final

Expect a steady, no-frills match.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Professional Referee Organization announced the crew that will handle the MLS Cup Final between the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium this Sunday. Veteran Jair Marrufo will be in the center. He will be assisted by Peter Manikowski and Corey Parker. The fourth official will be Chris Penso and the fifth official is James Conlee.

Jair Marrufo has a long tenure as a first tier referee in the United States. His first MLS match was in 2000 and he has refereed in four Gold Cups, the 2008 Olympics, and two U-17 World Cups. He was also the MLS Referee of the Year in 2008.

Marrufo had a reputation of dishing out red cards in his career, but he only handed out three over the 19 league matches he was assigned in 2015. It's a rate that ranks near the bottom of the MLS referee pool. His 3.06 yellow cards per game also trends toward the bottom end of the pool of league referees. He averaged 22 fouls called per game and called three penalties during his regular season assignments.

Marrufo did referee one Timbers game this year. He was center for the 4-1 Portland win over the Seattle Sounders on June 28th. He called 25 fouls and issued four yellow cards. He didn't referee a Crew SC game in 2015 and the last time he was in the center for a Columbus match was the delayed 0-0 tie with FC Dallas on June, 29th 2014.

Marrufo does have some history with Crew SC though. Marrufo was suspended for two games in 2009 after he was embroiled in controversy surrounding a Columbus vs. Chicago Fire game. He was seen chatting with then Fire star Cuauhtemoc Blanco before the game and then several people witnessed Blanco go into the referee's locker room and toss a jersey to Marrufo and his crew.

PRO has assigned two highly ranked veterans to run the sidelines for MLS Cup. Manikowski's first MLS assignment was in 2007 and he has worked the 2011 MLS Cup Final and the 2015 Gold Cup. He had 14 assignments in 2015. Parker is in his fifth year working MLS matches. He worked 19 league games. The two assistants were both finalists for the PRO Assistant Referee of the Year award, Parker won while Manikowski finished second.

Penso, the fourth official, had 19 assignments in 2015. He refereed five Crew SC games during the regular season, four wins and a loss to Montreal in the playoffs. He controversially decided to only yellow card Didier Drogba on his slide tackle and ankle grab of Steve Clark. The fifth official, Conlee, is another veteran assistant. He had 13 assignments and is expected to step in if one of the assigned assistants is injured.