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PRO release statement on Cooper handball controversy

KennyCooper1 (Getty)


PRO, the Professional Referee Organization that provides and governs officials in the U.S. and Canada, released a statement on Thursday defending referee Jair Marrufo for not calling a handball in the 90th minute, on a play that resulted in a goal.

Last Sunday, FC Dallas’ Kenny Cooper used his right shoulder and biceps to control a cross, before scoring the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over Houston.

In their statement, the organization cited Law 12 within the official Laws of the Game, which states “Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm.”

Using this, PRO wrote that because the handball was unintentional on Cooper’s part, Marrufo was correct to allow play to continue.

In response to the goal, and other perceived miscues from Marrufo during the match, Houston Dynamo manager Dom Kinnear strongly chastised the standard of play, saying that cheaters were ruining the game. The 34-year-old Marrufo was been named MLS Referee of the Year in the 2008, but has also suspended for a half-season due to poor form.

What do you think of this news?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. That rule is bull$hit. I remember when Houston was in the final against LA and they kicked the ball at Ricardo Clarks hand from behind while his hands were at his side while in the box and they called a handball and awarded the Galaxy a penalty kick. Where was the intent in that? His back was to the ball and his hands were at his side. Where’s the consistency?

  2. Journalism should be balanced. Where is the coverage on the blown off side call that disallowed, wrongfully, Jackson’s goal?

    Was that play reviewed with an official statement issued? Where is it?

  3. Refs will never be wrong on a handball. The rules are so open to interpretation. That being said, the ref couldnt see it simple as that. The sideline official might could have though. That’s not really what Dom was talking about though (although i am sure it added to his anger.)

    • Coach Kinnear was complaining about the Dallas players daring to trip over the legs that the Houston players intentionally stuck out with designs to foul them. Coach Kinnear is full of it. Houston should have been booked multiple times for all the persistent infringement on Ferriera. The Dynamo is one of the best at making a cheap foul in midfield in order to prevent an attack from getting started. They’d rather defend against a free kick from half field then defend against a good dribbler/distributer while on the run. I’d take those odds too, but it’s also cheating. Houston wouldn’t be so invincible at home if the referees actually booked all the persistent infringement. What doesn’t get snuffed out by cheap fouls in the midfield gets constrained by the intentionally narrow field.

      • True the Dynamo are the only team to ever commit professional fouls. Fc Dallas would never consider it, they are all alter boys. That dastardly Kinnear and his cheating team should be outlawed. Also I snuck onto the Dynamo field and measured it. Your right, its 1/4 inch below regulation width. Those bastards.

      • Wow, Cavan, repeat yourself much?

        Not only the literal repetition you made by stating the same thing twice in these comments, but the tired old story about how the Dynamo are a cheating, fouling team. But is this really true? Unlike you I will rely on stats rather memes.

        Year Hou FC Hou FS Dal FC Dal FS
        2006 502 (4th of 12) 530 (1st of 12) 476 (5th of 12) 419 (9th of 12)
        2007 410 (9th of 13) 455 (4th of 13) 465 (3rd of 13) 445 (5th of 13)
        2008 375 (7th of 14) 385 (4th of 14) 371 (8th of 14) 380 (5th of 14)
        2009 354 (7th of 15) 374 (4th of 14) 299 (14th of 15) 362 (6th of 14)
        2010 299 (13th of 16) 330 (9th of 14) 339 (6th of 16) 352 (5th of 16)
        2011 396 (14th of 18) 378 (15th of 18) 413 (8th of 18) 456 (1st of 18)
        2012 372 (17th of 19) 377 (17th of 19) 420 (11th of 19) 504 (2nd of 19)

        Looking at every year since the Dynamo’s first season, what do you see? In fouls committed, the Dynamo have only once been in the top 3rd, and have been in the bottom half more than half the time (4 out of 7 seasons). The story with fouls suffered is the opposite, being in the top half of teams fouled 4 of 7 seasons. And the Dynamo have only committed more fouls than they suffered in one season. Meanwhile Dallas have been in the top half of fouling teams 4 of those 7 seasons, and have fouled more than they’ve been fouled in two seasons.

        Obviously, I’m not trying to say Dallas is a thuggish team. But neither is Houston, despite the reputation. FWIW, while I’m disappointed that Kenny Cooper was able to score the winning goal, I’m not upset with the lack of a call. It was not egregious, and hard to see. And I admit that Houston got lucky on the offside call, too. Sometimes that happens. On the other hand, the first Dallas goal was from a free kick that should never have been awarded (Boniek Garcia cleanly took the ball away and then the Dallas player fell on the outstretched leg which was on the ground, not up to trip him). To me, that is a bigger error in that the referee should have had a much better view of it. Oh well, you win some you lose some. Yes, Ferreira was fouled. That’s what you’re supposed to do, foul the dangerous player before he gets into a dangerous position. But the stats clearly show the Dynamo are not a team that wins by fouling, so don’t push the (false) meme.

        By the way, which teams in that time period have fairly consistently committed more fouls than they’ve suffered? Real Salt Lake, San Jose, NY, Seattle. How come nobody talks about what thugs they are?

  4. I can understand if Marrufo didn’t see it, but that looked like a handball to me. I’m also not certain that our usual conception of intentional/unintentional helps here either. With rare exceptions — like the Uruguayan against Ghana at the last World Cup — nobody *intends* to commit a handball violation. But they put their arms in positions where they can gain an advantage if the ball hits them. That’s why you see defenders sometimes putting their hands behind their backs when they expect a low cross. Cooper missed the ball with his head, but then gently controlled the ball with his upper arm, to his clear advantage.

    • There are intentional handballs all the time. The Spaniarss are expert at them. When their path is blocked in the box they aim a kick at the hands in the hopes of drawing a handball.

      That is why the rules have to be discretionary and allow for balls hitting hands as opposed to hands hitting balls. There is a difference.

  5. I can’t stand all of the MLS hate re: referees. Handball is called completely inconsistently at all levels of the game and in every league — from AYSO to Champions League. Any time a ball touches an arm or a hand there almost always two somewhat valid arguments as to why it is or isn’t a handball. The most important factor is usually which team a person is cheering for.

    The vagueness of the rules is one of the things that makes soccer interesting and frustrating.

    It’s the same with red and yellow cards. The rules are vague and require split second decisions sometimes based on poor angles.

    Anyway, it’s soccer — not MLS.

    • I agree, happens everywhere worldwide. I stopped hating on refs back in ’09. I accepted it for what it is and just go with the flow. I do boo them during live matches though, but who doesn’t.

  6. Saw a ref call a hand ball once where the defender has his BACK to the player kicking the ball. The defender never saw the ball as he was defending his mark. The ball struck the defender in the arm. And the next thing ya’ know… PENALTY KICK (since defender was in the box). Not sure how this was ever called a “hand ball” since according to PRO… “Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm.” Then again, defenders are suppose to have eyes in the back of their heads! 😉

  7. I don’t know if Marrufo saw it, but when I saw a replay that showed the ball hitting Cooper’s arm, I thought it was unintentional and that his arm was in normal position close to his body. That contrasted it for me with the much-lamented handball by Christian Gomez just before he scored a goal in the waning moments of the playoff with Chicago in 2007 — a goal which would have sent the game into an overtime, completing what would have been the greatest rally in MLS history. Gomez was trying to push past the defender, so his arm was up and away from his body when it was struck by the ball. Intent is a big element obviously, but even an unintentional contact with the arm can be a handball violation. If intent was the only element, Gomez’ goal should have stood.

    • “Intent is a big element obviously, but even an unintentional contact with the arm can be a handball violation.” Correct, but that often is lost on casual fans. If contact with the hand, arm or shoulder confers an advantage is CAN be a handball, whether the player intended the action or not. Very hard to get that across while also maintaining that intent does not matter when an arm is an unnatural position and confers and advantage. Too much latitude around the words natural, unnatural, intent and advantage.

      • They need to change the wording of the rule to take the subjectiveness out of the decision. The Ref is asked to determine intent and even if your arms/hands are away from the body and the ball hits them and you don’t intend for it to happen the ref will call a hand ball because he thinks its intentional. Simplify the rule and just say that no matter what if the ball hits your hand/arm it is a handball. The ref will still miss things because they are only human and can’t see everything, but that is part of the beauty of the game. No need for video review as one commenter suggested earlier.

  8. PRO should just say “he didn’t see the handball” and that is it. The ref can’t see everything and they do make mistakes. I think honest recognition is more acceptable than a contrived reading of the rules.

    • contrived reading of the rules?

      Or, perhaps the referee was correct. The arm was in a natural position down at the side of the body. Therefore, there was no intent.

      • Screw intent. You cant cushion a header to yourself without using your arm. Without the handball he doesn’t score. It doesn’t matter if he intended to break the rules or not. I watched the game on tv and I knew immediately that something was up when the ball came off his head and landed at his feet. Just tell the truth PRO. The ref didn’t see it. It happens. Its part of the game and every player knows it. Refs can’t see everything.

      • Have you actually read the rules? The word “intent” does not appear in the rules at all and in the four instances where a variation like intention or intentionally appears it has nothing to do with handballs (or fouls or whatever someone tries to use it as an excuse for).

  9. MLS should have a quick 1-2 minute time period (like American football) which automatically reviews all goals scored, aka when a touchdown is scored. This doesn’t interrupt the flow of a game because players are using that time to celebrate the goal. Somewhere reviewing video can simply take a quick look and let the referee know if the ball touched his arm/hand or not.

    • 1) no it shouldn’t

      2) with video review, the call on the field would be “confirmed” or “stand.” As in, the video evidence shows that the ball hitting the arm was unintentional or isn’t strong enough to change the ruling on the field.

      Goal-line technology is needed for when the ball hits the crossbar and launches straight down. Video is not needed with other goals.

  10. “Marrufo was been named MLS Referee of the Year in the 2008, but has also suspended for a half-season due to poor form.”

    With this sort of awesome journalism, and amazing grammatical prowess, it’s a shock the writer hasn’t been given his own tv show on Fox News!

    And now I’ve forgotten why I came here.

    • While that sentence isn’t too good, this is one of the top sites on the internet for football, especially for the American fan of the game. I come here several times a day and pretty much every time there’s are articles I’m interested in. Plus the commenters are generally pretty decent. I can certainly overlook a few typos for such quality content. Thanks for the good work SBI!

    • Piss off. This is the greatest site EVER for American soccer fans. Its only a typo. You still understood the meaning. Keep up the good work SBI.

  11. “Marrufo was been named MLS Referee of the Year in the 2008, but has also suspended for a half-season due to poor form.” Yep, that about sums it up in the league we call MLS.

    • He was suspended because a certain Mr. White who used to play for Chicago visited the referees’ locker room after a game they won and gave Marrufo his jersey. It’s unclear whether Mr. Marrufo wanted it or if Mr. White was trying to troll and embarass him by doing something that would make him look like he was in the tank. Knowing former Chicago DP Mr. White, it was probably the latter.

      Marrufo was subsequently suspended to let the whole incident blow over so his unbiased judgement would not be questioned in subsequent games. Yet another reason to be glad that Mr. White has been gone for a couple of seasons.

  12. Marrufo didn’t see a handball. I never saw the Dynamo defenders complain about a handball. The first I heard about a handball was when the telecasters saw the replay in slow motion from an angle that Marrufo didn’t have. I think it would have been nearly impossible to call a handball in this situation. Sure, Dom is pissed. He saw his team fight back from a two-goal deficit only to lose the game in its last moments.

      • The call where the Dynamo player stuck his leg in Cooper’s path after he had no chance at the ball? That one? How dare Cooper fall down after being tripped!

        That was another cheap foul by Houston in the midfield that was designed to stop an attack before it got started. Houston should have been booked multiple times for persistent infringement. Check out how many times Ferriera was fouled before he could start dribbling at the Houston defense.

        Coach Kinnear is full of it. He’s projecting, trying to deflect from all the cheap fouls his team does in the midfield to prevent the other team from getting the ball on their best attacking players’ feet.

    • Exactly. In the EPL that WAS a hand ball…but one that Marrufo most likely couldn’t have seen if he was standing in the six yard box. Cooper earned the goal. It was a valid result. Depending upon how you view sport, a larger problem is a rule that requires a referee to interpret the intent of a player in real time. Good luck ever getting agreement on that from partisan fans.

      • Intent was removed from the rule specifically for this reason. The use of the word deliberate rather than intentional supports your argument that in the EPL it’s a handball because Cooper was trying to trap the ball and he did. His intent is irrelevant.

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