May 9, 2021

The 12th Man

I woke up this morning and tossed back two ibuprofen before I even made my coffee. I’m hoarse, my feet hurt, and I’m still drained from that episode of chaos last night. I spend a lot of time screaming and hollering at these matches, but it’s been a while since I’ve lost my voice to any degree. As per usual, it was a cool rainy evening.  Phil and I are fortunate to be close to the seats we purchased, which has been really nice this season, and we have had a great view of the action on our end.   

7600+ spectators felt and sounded like much more than that during this match. The two weeks leading up to it was full of shock and awe after we learned of former head coach John Hackworth’s departure from the club. That happened so suddenly and it flipped the table on everything we knew. With Danny Cruz stepping up to the helm, I think we all felt a new kind of energy...not to mention a sense of familiarity, reminiscent of when OG head coach James O’Connor departed mid-2018. 

I was truly satisfied with the entire lineup. JoGo made an early impression, as he always does. Napo Matsoso is one of my favorite players of all time; he is fun to watch. I like his assertiveness on the pitch. He isn’t afraid of anyone - including the Birmingham players who had a major height advantage on him. I thought the whole team played well, but things took a terrible turn in the 2nd half. 

Having only watched this sport for 7 years, I am an infant in terms of soccer spectatorship.  I have never played, and I don’t have a degree in refereeing, but I do have working eyes with 20/20 vision.  I even recognize and acknowledge that refereeing is subjective, but where does consistency fall within that “opinion of the referee”? 

Any perceived foul by LouCity against Birmingham, particularly with Birmingham lying down and taking naps with every slip, trip, and fall, resulted in a whistle and/or a free kick in Birmingham’s favor.  The Legion wasted countless minutes testing the comfort level of our special hybrid grass.  Maybe it was the heating system underneath that was so attractive...I’m still not sure.  Sorry, I digress.  Conversely, nearly every foul by Birmingham against LouCity went unacknowledged by the referee. Ownby, Matsoso, and Akil Watts were all taken down. JoGo was reprimanded a couple times for his misplacement of the ball during corner kicks, yet Birmingham’s misplacement in the same spot was blatantly ignored by the line judge. If you’re going to call fouls, call them on both sides. 

Birmingham’s PK was probably warranted, and the retake was definitely warranted.  Yes, it sucks, but we have to remember that every player makes mistakes from time to time.  Remember what Samm Ownby said on my show?  The players are still people, too.  The referee seemed to hand yellow cards out like candy to our boys in purple, but after an entire half of seemingly biased refereeing, their frustrations were sure to visibly and verbally surface.  Even though Chris Hubbard jumped off his line forcing the PK retake, he might have gotten away with no yellow card if he hadn’t thrown that cheeky thumbs up to the ref. The icing on the cake was the 12 minutes of stoppage time in the 2nd half, which made the night all that more unbelievable. I was genuinely optimistic that we would score again in those 12 minutes, but ultimately we did not. 

To paraphrase Joey Cecil’s tweet:  You can never win when it’s 12 vs 11.