City Desk

Hitters Hit, Fighters Fight, Soccer Players Dive

Moreso than any other team sport, soccer depends on its players to have integrity. That's because a penalty kick call can sway a game, and referees with their humanness just can't discern in real time a trip from a dive.

But as baseball players have made plain, the urge to win fairly is no match for the urge to win.

These bad urges were on display with Taylor Twellman's boffo backwards fall in the box in the closing moments of last week's game with D.C. United.

Twellman was awarded a penalty kick, which New England converted, giving the Revolution a one-goal home win. Replays showed Twellman wasn't fouled; he was barely touched, in fact. His victim posturing while sitting on the turf after the fall is enough to make Pele hate soccer. (Here's video of Twellman's dive, which comes at the 4:40 mark.)

As reported in the Washington Post, arbiters from the U.S. Soccer Federation have now weighed in on the Twellman matter, and didn't find much beauty in the performance. Instead, USSF blasted MLS officials for falling for the fall.

My favorite part of the USSF report came when it advised that the MLS game officials should have noticed that, as written by the Post's Steven Goff, "no New England players showed signs of discontent—'a sign that can help confirm any instinctual feelings the referee may have.'"

So, refs should look at a diver's teammates before making a call? Please.

But, even though the report vindicates D.C. United's post-game whining about the call, there's nothing the team can do about it. Except, well, bring Greg Louganis in for a clinic.

And, in case anybody's wondering if cheaters ever prosper: Yes, they do. Twellman was named MLS player of the week yesterday.

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  • Reid

    Two words: video replay.

    A few more words: If someone takes a dive as verified by video replay, the other team should get a penalty kick and the player should get a red flag.

    Another thing they could do is incorporate the delayed penalty from hockey. If you get fouled in soccer, you have an incentive to fall and end the play, but say you were allowed to continue the play until the other team touched the ball, at which point you'd get the free kick back at the site of the foul. This would encourage players to attack aggressively during the delayed penalty rather than roll on the ground in faked agony.

  • IntangibleArts

    And what a goofy f*ckin' dive it was.

    There might be room at Man U for a wincing weenie like Twellman if Ronaldo goes off to Real Madrid. They'll need to maintain their wincing weenie count, after all.

  • Dave McKenna

    Reid: video replay blows. if soccer's going to adopt anything from hockey to cure the scourge of divers, it would be to allow fights. i can only imagine the beating Twellman would have taken after that performance.

  • Jason

    Disclaimer: I am a Revolution fan.

    I think most are in agreement that it was a bad call. I think he legitimately fell, but took it too far with the waving arms. Serious question though, do you D.C. United fans think that Jaime Moreno never dives? I wonder how many beatdowns he would have received over the years if your vigilante justice was instated. I would love to see less diving in MLS, and soccer in general, but Twellman is far from being one of the worst offenders.

    Also, Twellman got player of the week for his awesome performance THIS WEEK, not last week. If you want to brand anyone who has ever taken a dive as a "cheater", start with your roster first.

  • MN

    I love Moreno, but he's the least convincing actor in the league, and so he rarely gets calls for diving (intepret that as you will). When he goes down like a sack of potatoes, he'll lay on the ground for a few seconds, realize no one cares, then then quietly get back up.

    And the reason he's still in the league is because's he's one of best ball controller in the MLS. Often he's more help to the team by fighting off players and mainting posession then just going down when touched.

  • Karen

    Of course the fact that Twellman was flattened by DC's keeper minutes before probably had no bearing on THIS play getting called. Can anyone say "make up" call?