MLS- Portland Timbers

MLS fines Timbers owner Paulson $25K for ripping officials on Twitter, and for confronting referee after match

MerrittPaulson (ISIPhotos.com)

A missed penalty call in Saturday's Portland Timbers-D.C. United match was enough to set off Timbers owner Merritt Paulson. He not only rattled off a tirade on Twitter bashing MLS officiating, he then confronted match officials after the match.

Major League Soccer punished Paulson for his actions, fining him $25,000 for his actions, and for the following tweets:

"Let's be real…nfl replacement refs have nothing on mls primary refs. Sick of this garbage"

"I will happily take the fine. Its atrocious. Should balance out. Guess policy is to balance JWF atmosphere"

"All season long…not a single damn pk awarded to us. Numerous cut/dry blown calls. And let's give DC a gift for good measure"

What do you think of this development? See $25,000 as a fair fine? Think Paulson has a point? See other team owners stepping up to criticize MLS referees?

Share your thoughts below.


  • Dan Ericson

    I agree with the first tweet above. I do think, however, it’s easy to play victim when you fail. All teams have had their share of bad ref-ing. I doubt there is a conspiracy against Portland.


  • El paso, tx- soccer love

    Love it- mls needs more owners with that attitude, no so aggressive but like that. How many owners in the mls even show their face after and before? 1 or 3 my guess and how many go out to salute their fans. I seen that in mexican professional soccer when my border city had professional soccer and it makes a difference.


  • JoeW

    1. My understanding is that it wasn’t a “non-call.” Rather, it was the PK call that Pontius converted. Kitchen hit a cross from the right side, defender (Horst?) jumps in while in the box, his left arm is extended, the ball is clearly deflected, Kitchen appeals for a PK and the AR on that sideline called it.

    2. My understanding is that MP wasn’t pissed so much at the call (it was close–looked to me like it hit Horst’s extended arm, others claim it hit his shoulder, others his ribs but it clearly hit him and his arm was extended, it changed the cross and he was in the penalty area). It’s that all season, Portland has gotten no PK calls–zero. And he (MP) is arguing there’s a bias. Maybe there is. But DCU isn’t the beneficiary of it–this was only the second PK DCU has been awarded this season and only the first they’ve made. Montreal OTOH has been awarded 9 PKs.


  • QuakerOtis

    Good news: MLS now showcases a solid product.

    Bad news: The solid product exposes, more than ever, just how poor the refs are in this country.

    Maybe instead of Designated Players the league should have a Designated Ref. Maybe an old European, or someone well known from Mexico? Sort of joking… but not entirely.


  • bottlcaps

    You have to GET into the box to get a penalty kivk, something the woeful Timbers offense has failed to do a loc.
    I think because of all the diving that has permeated some soccer leagues, refs do not give many PK’s unless it is real obvious. Shoulder to shoulder bumps are tolerated as well as most legit tackles. Just because you are tackled in the box it does not mean you get a PK, sometimes, that is lost on the public and even owners.

    I do believe that the refereeing is somewhat below par and I do think Paulson may have a beef about the refereeing in general.

    I believe it woulg be good to bring in some experienced foreign refs, like an exchange. Even a “Designated Ref” from one of the top leagues would go far in showing the MLS is serious about increasing the quality of the refereeing.


  • Jon

    I was there and seated directly in line with the cross. Clearly changed the flight of the ball. Subtle but clear. In a vacuum, good of the AR to take the initiative on a call he was best placed to make. I can’t imagine the AR was close enough to distinguish arm from body in real time. Weird play for sure.


  • Rigazzi's on the Hill

    From the ‘Flamingo Kid’: “That’s his bar bill at the club.”


  • Naboo

    Has he seen his team play? The refs should be the least of his concerns. Comes off as a bit of a crybaby to me. I want better refs as much as the next guy but footy is choked full of iffy calls even at the highest level.


  • Since 82

    I am a huge Timbers fan. The quality of officiating in the MLS is garbage. There are far too many matches where it is noticeable, bizzare calls, uneven, etc.


  • who said

    I think he’s full of himself and his club if he thinks he’s getting bad calls because of JWF atmosphere. Refs are making bad calls regardless of atmosphere. JWF is not that special, get over yourselves. LSP is one of the better venues in my opinion.


  • soccerhorn

    The problem isn’t the refs, per se. It’s the approach to refereeing the game in general. The game is just too fast for one man to call. It’s time to think radically: put more refs on the field. Once upon a time the NFL only had one guy on the field. Once upon a time the NBA only had one guy on the court. Things change. The only reason FIFA won’t do this is that it would make it harder to cheat. FIFA wants the cheating. Makes it easier to make sure France make it to the World Cup Finals every cycle.


  • Seriously

    LSP is the best venue, but to say that JWF is not special is absurd. The atmosphere in Portland is the best in the league.

    Now, certainly the ref’s aren’t biased against it, but that bit of your statement is just stupid. I would say ignorant, but I think you know better.


  • Rlw2020

    Tomorrow’s headlines “MLS sings howard webb to a DP contract and make him ref every mls playoff game”


  • Gnarls

    Paulson is exactly what MLS needs: an owner (with deep pockets) willing to speak his mind, consequences be damned. Anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty must agree that MLS refs are sub-par, even compared to other CONCACAF refs.



    Which one? He references multiple opportunities all season to award a PK to the Timbers (not this game specifically – though a DC player did handle the ball in the box just before Dike took possession and scored).

    His beef was actually with the hand ball and a totally blown offside (which luckily didn’t result in a goal, but the player was easily 5 yards offside … same AR who called the handball and gave the PK to DC).

    Merritt was upset and lashed out. Absolutely the team is atrocious this year but it certainly doesn’t help matters when it feels like the refereeing is one sided on top of it. I don’t think it is – we have benefited from some pretty lousy calls too, just none that actually helped us gain points like a phantom PK.



    This all comes from some BS Portland reporter’s theory (written weeks ago) that the ref’s are overcompensating for the loud / rowdy fans and in an attempt to not be intimidated are calling a tighter game against Portland and letting the opponents get away with more. All started because of the lack of PKs all season issue.

    I am a Timber fan and I completely disagree with the idea. I think the refs are just plain inconsistent league wide.

    As the poster said above, the handball in question was iffy. While the ball may have changed direction slightly it was a cross deflecting skimming off the body/shirt, perhaps armpit of the defender. In the same game there was a clear hand ball (forearm push of the ball while on the ground) on DC not called. There was an offside which was WAAAYYY off, 5+ yards, not called. Dike was called for a foul mid way through on a long ball when the defender put both arms on his shoulders, went up for a header and on the way down grabs him around the neck and pulls him to the ground. Later Dike gets completely undercut going up for a header in the box by a defender and comes down on his head – no foul given.

    The center ref was so poorly positioned he was hit by passes 7 or 8 times in that DCU-Portland game. A couple of them rather dangerous deflections toward the top of the 18 … we thought he might score if he kept trying so hard!

    It is hard not to watch this with green and gold glasses on. I am a fan – what can I say. But even when I watch MLS games without any rooting interest I am always shocked at the number of totally bogus calls.

    I just hope Paulson’s $25k goes to good use training referees.


  • art

    not sure Paulson is saying the refereeing is one-sided as much as he’s saying the refereeing plain sucks, which it does. Paulson might have acted rashly but he’s not wrong.


  • who said

    Best atmosphere in league is debatable. JWF does rate highly, don’t get me wrong. I’m saying that they’re not special in getting poor officiating. Perhaps you should read my post instead of trying to read in-between the lines.


  • Dustin

    They’ve tried it. They tried two referees on the field with two ARs on the sides before in Italy, it didn’t work even a little bit. They tried adding AARs on the endlines, still missed PK calls and missed goal calls. It hasn’t worked.

    Also the very idea that most of the calls are In the Eyes of the Referee sort of calls means that having more than one man with the whistle would be even MORE inconsistency than we already get with one human being at the helm. Anyone who knows this game understands what a good strong referees brings to it, we should recruit Collina to help with our referee program.


  • Dustin

    Than why in Concacaf competitions are MLS teams crying about the referees CONSTANTLY. There’s way more whining about them compared to the number of games they do for MLS teams.


  • Hollywood Sounder

    I agree the MLS refs need help. The league has a “disciplinary committee” that reviews games and levies punishment to correct some of the officiating lapses. I’ve always wondered why this group doesn’t punish incompetent referees too.

    I’ve also seen some pretty bad calls in the CONCACAF champions league matches. Some of those Caribean refs just are not prepared for the speed of the game played in Mexico or the US.


  • Paul

    It is nice to see an owner get worked up like this, because it means he cares. This tiny incident sounds emotional, which makes it that much better to see an owner doing it.


  • Sean

    MLS Refs are bad but the three stooges in Portland on Saturday were so out of their depth.
    I have never seen a ref get hit by the ball so many times. Yellow card on a player standing still and another comes over his back to head a ball. Horst has a habit of jumping with his arms out but the ball clearly went under his arm pit. with the atmosphere so loud at JWF I do believe the refs expect a ton of abuse from the fans and are happy to give them more to chant about.http://www.portlandtimbers.com/video/2012/09/29/highlights-timbers-draw-1-1-dc-united


  • CommonSense

    I’m a Timbers fan, thus biased, but the referring at Jeld-Wen this year has been something else. A number of games you coming away just utterly shocked at the inconsistency. There have been bad calls in our favor too, but the penalty issue is a real one.

    Not calling it bias, or some type of league-wide conspiracy (MLS wants our atmosphere in the playoffs), but it’s poor officiating and I do believe a case of intimidation. It seems a lot of refs officiate like they’re intimidated here.

    We don’t get basic, simple calls like the 5:30 mark vs. Seattle.


    That’s been happening all season here. Same spot as the, even if it hits his armpit, soft penal against DC.


  • CommonSense

    Also, if you don’t think it’s the best atmosphere you’ve not been. I’ve been to Chicago, KC, Seattle, LA, TFC in year 2, Vancouver and Houston.

    We’re louder, sing more, bring better tifo and had a bigger supporters section in USL than most teams now.


  • Eugene

    MLS should pay close attention to what happened in the NFL with the replacement refs. Having poor refs REALLY hurts the growth of the game. NFL was starting to lose fans over the ref debacle, how many fans has MLS lost or not won over because the refs are not up to par?


  • Gnarls

    I’m a Galaxy supporter, and I approve this message.

    I’ve been to two games at Jeld Wen (while visiting family in the PacNW), and hands down, Portland has a better environment than LA.


  • rory

    I hate to see JWF on TV. The baseball bleacher in the sky look is pretty bad on TV. Would rather the fans in the front row be closer to the pitch instead of ten foot above it.


  • Rory

    Seriously, Spencer was such an agry little gnome. His post-match rants grew old very quickly.


  • Dustin

    Because referees are “punished” for mistakes by not being assigned again. Take Anno’s whistle no whistle in Portland, he hasn’t had a center since.


  • Dustin

    1. This is not true, they have and always had a referee liaison with the USSF. Also when the MLS did have more control over the referees in the early days of the MLS it was even worse. You think reffing is bad now, you must be new to the league because it was terrible for awhile in the beginning.


  • Trent

    You should be able to call someone out when they’re doing a bad job. I don’t think it’s fair to fine a coach for calling out mistakes but there are no consequences to officials that blow games. I’m sick of no accountability for refs. I’m sick of coaches and players having to play dumb. If I screwed up at my job like these refs, I would get lawsuits constantly. How about some financial accountability to officials for blowing game changing calls.


  • Cavan

    Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

    1) “Screwing up” is in the eye of the competitor/fan.

    2) Referees have accountability. If they’re not up to the task, they aren’t assigned any more games.

    3) If you don’t fine coaches for lashing out at officials, then you’ll have coaches charging out on the field for every potential call/non-call. The referee’s safety would be at risk.

    4) You can’t play competitive soccer (or any other sport) without an official.

    5) The referees actually make very few mistakes. The only ones that Mr. Kennedy made were being in the passing lanes on a very tight field. (It’s good news that the field at Jeld-Wen will be widened to 74 yards next year. That makes a HUGE difference in being able to move the ball.) The PK call isn’t a mistake. It’s arguable, perhaps, but it’s not a clear-cut mistake.

    6) If you fined referees for calls that coaches and fans perceive as wrong, nobody will call anything for fear of being fined.

    If you think the calls are bad now, wait until they implement your ideas…


  • bryan

    i think it is pathetic when leagues fine people for talking about bad refs. if they are bad then they DESERVE to be talked about. probably a good idea to not allow confrontations, but fining someone because they said something about the refs on twitter is ridiculous.


  • michael

    He’s right, and they’ve not just been atrocious at Portland, but everywhere. MLS needs to make a serious upgrade in the reffing department. When 1 goal will often decide a game, the quality of reffing needs to be sterling!


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