The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is always Dallas Cup time, this being the 33rd year of the tournament. Back in Pittsburgh some 25 years ago, I knew about Dallas Cup and heard great stories about it. I wanted to attend, but did not have the funds to travel. This year was my second opportunity to referee at this incredible, international event. In addition to myself, Brent Zirkle, Jim Parker and James Meade represented GLASA at Dallas Cup.
US Soccer also hosts a Referee Training Session (RTS) the Friday and Saturday before Dallas Cup. RTS is open to anyone that is grade 7 or higher and you register via ussoccer.gameofficials.net. The RTS consists of 8 hours of clinic time over two days along with the US Soccer Beep Test, and is only held in about 10 cities across the country. National Candidates must attend to pass their fitness test, and supposedly referees that attend are eligible to work Development Academy games. Alfred Kleinaitis (formerly the National Director of Instruction for US Soccer) lead the clinic time. We discussed changes to the professional referee structure (PRO), watched videos and discussed appropriate misconduct, talked about directives and policies from the last three years, and discussed the changes that will soon be made about applying advantage outside of Law 12 (offside, throw ins, etc). On Saturday was the Beep Test; this is the new fitness test applied to FIFA and National Referees and will most likely be applied to State Referees in the near future. You have to run 6 40 meter sprints in 6.6 seconds. After that, the interval test consists of running 150 meters in 35 seconds, walking 50 meters in 40 seconds, then running 150 meters in 35 seconds and walking 50 in 40 seconds. That complete’s one lap…we had to do that for 12 laps! If you failed the fitness test if you didn’t complete two sprints or two 150 meter segments in the time allotted. Unfortunately, I re-aggravated a hamstring injury on my 4th sprint. I managed to make the next two sprints, but I had the full endurance test to run yet. I was able to loosen my leg up enough to pass the entire fitness test, but had trouble walking later in the day. My Dallas Cup already was not looking good and it didn’t even start yet.
Sunday morning had a 730am mandatory meeting. I saw a referee colleague I used to work with in Pittsburgh. I also met a referee from Switzerland and talked with him for about 15 minutes; I didn’t find out for two days that he is actually a FIFA referee, and he even went on to referee the Super Group Final!!! After the meeting, games started. I had a U17 line right out of the gate that demonstrates what Dallas Cup is about. The center referee was from Saudi Arabia, one team was from Beijing, the other AR was from California and the assessor from Australia. All matches at Dallas Cup have fourth officials and with my leg still injured I relegated myself to fourth official to let my leg rest. The Chinese team had trouble dealing with the heat and lost to FC Dallas. My second game was a U13 line, but I again took the fourth official clipboard.
One of the best things about Dallas Cup is what goes on off the field. With so many referees in from out of town, there are so many opportunities to network and make new friends. All referees are able to get into the FC Dallas stadium for free and watch the Super Group games. Sunday there is always a triple header of Super Group matches and the referees have a suite up on the second level and watch, talk, eat and naturally critique the referee crew on the field below. I decided to skip Sunday’s Super Group matches to ice my leg, but really wish I was able to go.
Monday had a full day of games and I was really looking forward to this U17 match. The center referee was local referee Tom Harlett, and Tom just received his National badge two days ago at RTS. I have worked with Tom many times, and consider him a good friend. It was a true honor to be on one of his first games as a National Referee. My leg wasn’t 100%, but I was able to be in the correct position for a key offside decision and a crucial goal line play. My second match was a U15 line, which was very competitive. Afterwards, we went to the stadium to watch the evening’s Super Group games.
I didn’t have any matches on Tuesday, so that was a good rest day for me. Tuesday historically has very few games scheduled, and that was a good thing this year. Can you imagine travelling 100′s of miles, excited about some warm weather, having extremely competitive soccer matches and then having 15 tornadoes rip through the area?!? Fortunately all the games are already completed except for one, and everyone was able to get to safety. Good thing the twisters missed most of Frisco.
Wednesday came my big day…the only middle I was assigned. Mine was a U14 match between a team from Chicago and one from southern California. Thursday is the first day of playoffs, so Wednesday is also the last day of round-robin play. Typically only the winner of the groups advance, so the Wednesday games tend to me more interesting as teams are trying to advance. In my game, one team was out of the playoffs and the other team needed some help. Both teams played hard, and the match was quite challenging. My leg still wouldn’t allow me to get a full sprint, so I needed to anticipate play often. The same assessor that I met on my first game was there observing my match. He game me some good tips, noted that my sprints were lacking, but really liked how much I smiled and had fun during the match. I was very pleased with my performance, but also knew due to my injury I wasn’t able to shine well enough to get playoff appointments. Playoff appointments are performance based, and decided Wednesday evening after consulting with all the assessors and administrators.
Thursday morning came and no playoff assignments in my email, so I went into the office to work. Around 1030am I get a text message that I received a new game assignment…a U13 quarterfinal as a fourth official…at 430pm! Since assignments were made overnight, it was clear to me someone else was assigned the fourth official spot but declined it for whatever reason. So I was assigned it. Sure, I may have been second choice, but you seize those opportunities when they present themselves. The center and AR2 were both from Canada , AR1 was a local referee and the teams were Nomads Academy and Aztec Premier. The match was scoreless at halftime, with Nomads striking first in the second half. A penalty kick for Aztecs tied the score right before the end of regulation, so we went into overtime (2 ten minute periods). Nomads scored 3 minutes into overtime, with Aztecs drawing even in the 7th minute. I’m preparing the benches for kicks from the mark and Nomads scored the game winner in the last minute of play! It was quite an exciting match, and Nomads advanced all the way to the final match and took second place.
There are so many other opportunities I just wasn’t able to participate in…more Super Group games, opening ceremonies, referee party, casino night, Easter Sunday’s final matches and farewell party. However, many old friends from other tournaments were seen, new friends were made and incredible soccer was witnessed. Dallas Cup is one of the best international tournaments in the country. Personally, I learned so many new tips, tricks and tools for use in future matches. I feel I am a much better referee having attended it. And those teams out at Lake Park, Chinn and Railroad will see it….once this darn hamstring heals!!!!