Top Stories

USA vs. Honduras: Meet the Ref

Roberto Moreno (

When the U.S. men's national team takes the field in Honduras, it will see plenty of familiar faces on the opposing team, but the Americans will see an even more familiar face working the game as referee.

The match referee for Saturday's World Cup qualifier is Panamanian official Roberto Moreno, a referee who has become somewhat of a regular in U.S. national team qualifiers.

How much of a regular? Consider that the last three World Cup qualifiers Moreno has worked have all involved the United States.

Is that a good thing? Let's consider those three matches.

Moreno was the referee in the U.S. team's 2-1 loss to Mexico at Estadio Azteca. He didn't issue any red cards on that day, but did issue yellow cards to three U.S. defenders in the first half, and did call more fouls against the Americans than Mexicans (16 to 10) in a match that saw both sides playing physically.

Moreno's performance led to some direct criticism from U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard after the Mexico match.

“It seems that a lot of times you come to a place like this and the most intimidating person in the stadium is the referee,” Howard said. “It’s disappointing. There were tough plays that went against us. I think the bar was probably tilted in their favor and that’s unfortunate because it was a hard-fought game.

 ”We went in hard. They went in hard. And for some reason, we always came out with a foul.”

Before that Mexico qualifier, Moreno had actually been a bit of a good-luck charm, working three other qualifiers involving the United States that were all victories:

USA 3, Trinidad & Tobago 0 (April 1, 2009)- Americans dominated and Moreno didn't have much to do.

USA 6, Cuba 1 (Oct. 11, 2008)- Another blowout on American soil where Moreno had little to do.

USA 1, Barbados 0 (June 22, 2008)- An ugly and rather boring game that mattered little after the USA's 8-0 win in the first leg of this two-leg series.

As familiar as Moreno is with the United States, he isn't a stranger to Honduras or San Pedro Sula, having officiated Honduras' 2-0 win vs. Jamaica in third-round qualifying action on Sept. 10, 2008. Other matches of note on his resume include the Mexico-Guadeloupe Gold Cup semifinal in 2007, and the Costa Rica-Mexico Gold Cup semifinal this past summer.

D.C. United fans won't have fond memories of Moreno. He was the referee who issued a second yellow card and red card ejection to D.C. goalkeeper James Thorpe for time-wasting in a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match in 2008.

So what is our take on Moreno? His officiating in the Mexico match left something to be desired, but when you consider the other USA games he has officiated, it is tough to say he has been a bad referee for the Americans. That said, you have to wonder if he is capable of making a tough call against the home team.

What do you think of Moreno? Like the idea of him being the referee for this match, or are you still having bad memories about the Mexico match?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. CONCACAF has a terrible problem with intimidated officials (not new). The only solution is to bring referees in from other regions.

  2. So since Mexico complained loud and long about the initial referee assignment (a Salvadoran, if I remember correctly) for US-Mex @ Azteca and got it changed, I assume the USSF could have made a similar play, but elected not to, right?

    Avoiding “whining” is laudable in principle, but it seems like USA continues to lag a step behind in the gamesmanship that dominates CONCACAF interactions.

  3. This is the worst referee in Concacaf PERIOD. He always calls games one sided. This guy isn’t even qualified for the MLS! Expect all the calls to go one way, probably for the home side. Book it.

  4. This comments here are beginning to sound very similar to the ones from Mexican sites I read….”the whole region is out for us”

    Posted by: andy | October 07, 2009 at 02:57 PM

    Totally agree… And that its not the only trait that the USNT fans have been acquiring.


  5. Xander, yes. I’d rather yell at a ref for being an idiot rather than yelling at him for being “influenced”

    Posted by: afrim |

    . . . how would “being and idiot” AND “being influenced” work for us … which is a high probability for a ref from a soccer minnow country with little high pressure exposure.

  6. thanks EA — i had watched the game on a little tv in spanish and didn’t catch how bad it was. (i also avoided reading up about it afterwards… didn’t want to relive it)

    those pictures are ridiculous. how did this not go unpunished?

  7. Living in the southern United States and being a fan of soccer I have noticed one thing about Most soccer fans from Mexico to South America and that is they all cheer against the US no matter who we are playing. I have even worked with a few guys from South America and they always enjoyed giving me crap about how the US would lose whether we were playing Panama, Trinadad and Tobago, or Argentina. This same thing goes for almost all Latina American Fans I talk to. While most are very friendly about it and enjoy talking soccer with someone here in the heart of American Football fan territory they all make one thing clear. THEY LOVE WHEN THE US LOSES! This is what makes me weary when we are given refs like this. It seems as if there is a popular culture in these Latin American countries to want the US to lose and these are where a refs are coming from it just doesnt seem fair. While not all fans I have meant are like this more often then not they are. So then you have a ref from a Latin American country in a Latin American country that has to then deal with his own prejudice as well as the home fans while trying to neutrally ref a very important game.

  8. This comments here are beginning to sound very similar to the ones from Mexican sites I read….”the whole region is out for us”

  9. I think it was this guy or another panamanian ref that was really good and impressed a lot. Hopefully it is the one I am hopeing for.

  10. The problems with the Mexico game were two-fold. First, any tough challenge by us was a foul, any tough challenges by Mexico were not called (remember the tug on Landon in what should have been a breakaway and instead resulted in their first goal?)

    Second, those two non-cards (Davies and Gooch incidents) were total crap. How do you not give cards for that?

    This leads me to believe the Mexico game was a set up and the ref was there to “fix” it. I still believe we were outplayed in that game, but the reffing was so bad!!! It seems to me that CONCACAF was (is) going to do whatever it takes to make sure Mexico makes it to the World Cup. If they had lost that game, it would have been over for them.

    My take? I think we’ll get some calls – either sat. or at RFK. CONCACAF definitely wants the US at the World Cup.

  11. We are screwed. This is the same guy who peed his pants at Azteca and was seen celebrating when he blew the whistle that he got out alive.

    Prepare to get fouled for every 50/50 ball, several questionable yellow cards (and if Clark or Bradley have anything remotely bad, red). We’re losing at least 1 starter for the CR game. This is concerning news.

  12. In a madhouse like Azteca was during the US game, I can understand a ref being hesitnat to call anything that’s not clear. I don’t like it, but I understand it. I don’t know how to excuse a guy who doesn’t show any card to a player who puts an opponent in a half-nelson. Shameful that he’s still reffing at all so soon after that debacle, much less in critical WCQ games. The US is going to have to play really, really well to win this one.

  13. @ Toumba — I have to agree with you there. I used to live in Thessaloniki and have been to countless PAOK games at Toumba where the ref let a game get out of hand (see 2002 game vs. Olympiakos). As bad as we have it in CONCACAF, it could be a lot worse.

  14. I pray daily for Canadian, Puerto Rican or Jamaican referees in qualifying. They are pretty much the only referees who seem to be impartial to the U.S. in CONCACAF. Seems to me pretty much all other referees operate with an anti-U.S. bias, which is why people in Europe don’t understand that qualifying in our region is not a cake walk. And I blame CONCACAF, for just letting it happen, year after year and game after game without taking any action.

  15. (Excellent use of the JO’B card, Andrew.)

    As for the ref, I agree with an “out-of-conference” ref rule from FIFA. Anyone who thinks refs don’t effect the outcome of a game, or can’t be intimidated by the crowd, is an idiot.

  16. the referee will be irrelevant. we have a pretty tough task against Honduras, mainly because they’re desperate and good, not because the referee will be biased or bad.

  17. I seem to remember reading somewhere…maybe on this blog…that the Honduran TV announcer said on the air, during the Costa Rica match, that if Honduras didn’t win, he would announce name of the hotel where the ref was staying.

    That’s the culture of Concacaf for you. Hopefully Concacaf books hotel rooms for the officials in 3 or 4 different hotels so that the ref can switch locations if there’s potential for hostility.

  18. He was HORRIBLE in that Mexico game, he was so scared to call anything on Mexico that he nearly soiled his pants…

    A freaking guy choked another player for christ sake, while he should have been carded for time wasting in the first place; the result, NOTHING…

    Im sure he will be confortable in such a country with such a civil state….

  19. Anyone complaining about the refs should come watch a weekend of Greek Super League. The officials here are shockingly bad. The words that could be used would be: corrupt, egotistical, uneducated, uninterested and unprofessional.

    Trust me…you would rather have a ref that lets some things go than one who calls every little touch. Or one that does not issue a red card for a two footed tackle, but will issue one for dissent.

    That has been my main gripe with refs that I watch and ones that officiate while I have played…..I will never understand the ones worried about players mouths more than they are worried about bad fouls. Quick to yellow dissent but let rash challenges go with a simple free kick. Last time I check…a little dissent never injured anyone.

  20. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. HOW HOW HOW can this gutless wonder be given ANOTHER US match?

    I hate CONCACAF in so many ways right now – we NEED to have neutral, non-CONCACAF referees for any matches that are important. This is just insanity.

    My line for the game, now that I know who is going to be the man with the whistle? Hon 2 USA 0 — with Baby Bradley getting himself a direct red for a clean tackle around midfield and gooch, mandovon and timmy all seeing yellow. Maybe hedjuk too.

    God I hope I’m wrong.

  21. Other countries (aside from Scotland, maybe) don’t have a domestic league where two footed studs up tackles are the norm.

    If we didn’t make so many foolish, awkward challenges, the ref would be far less important.

  22. Oh god don’t ask for Salazar. That guy is effin horrible.

    btw, I wonder if other countries are as concerned with the referees BEFOREHAND as we are. It can’t be a good thing

  23. He lost control of the game in Mexico at points and definitely missed plenty of calls. How the altercation when Davies was on the ground injured didn’t result in a sending off still amazes me. But the US just have to keep cool and not let the ref dictate the game. No dumb challenges equals no cards no matter who is officiating. Focus on what they can control and it will be fine.

  24. afrim, do you really want some referee from Barbados calling a game between Mexico and the USA? Just as the teams left standing are the strongest, the referees that are the strongest happen to be from those same nations.

  25. Isn’t this the guy who is LOOKING at Torrado choking Benny Feilhaber at Azteca, in that widely seen picture?

    And then proceeded to give Benny a yellow?

    But I’m sure we’ll get a fair shake, right?

    BTW, Ives, I love the focus on the ref before the game. It’s something that is big news in other parts of the world (meaning who’s calling the game), and educating the general public about referee styles and tendencies can only add another layer of intrigue to the games.

  26. I haven’t seen a qualified referee from this region so far, no matter what his country. They all seem to be inconsistent, easily intimidated and influenced. I can still see the official from a Mexican game who allowed a three foot shirt pull, elbow to the face, and upper cut to the stomach pass by as ‘no hay falta’.

  27. Refs who come from a country who still have a dog in this fight should NOT be calling games.

    I remember my first WCQ game in foxboro back in 97 vs. ES.i think Collina from italy called that one…why not bring that practice back?

  28. At least he’s not Mexican. I just cannot believe the final US match (and possibly the one that decides qualification assuming we’d get slaughtered by Argentina) will be officiated by a Mexican ref. Holy crap…can’t we have that guy from Suriname?


Leave a Comment