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The Penalty Might Not Be Yesterday's Biggest Lockout Story

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Yeah, referee Alan Kelly screwed up, but the fact he's a non-union ref isn't the most concerning bit of yesterday's iffy call.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as Jamison Olave appeared to kill Marvin Chavez in the box late in yesterday's Red Bulls-Colorado Rapids game and replacement/scab (take your pick) referee Alan Kelly awarded a penalty, you knew the referee lockout would become a hot topic in the post-game analysis.

Here it is, in the lead of an Empire of Soccer story and a Big Apple Soccer story.

But the issue here isn't so much that Kelly isn't a regular MLS ref. If we're going to jump on him for yesterday's awful penalty call, we should be worried about his day job: PRO's Assistant Training Manager. The guy is responsible for making sure PRO's referee roster knows what it's doing.

By most accounts, Kelly is a pretty good official. Before joining PRO, he was one of Ireland's best, and when the Professional Soccer Referees Association isn't engaging in throwback 19th century fear-mongering, they even admit as much (opens PDF, Kelly's bio is on page 12). Though they don't define terms -- the guys over at /r/mls did that -- Kelly, even went demoted from the "Elite Development" category to the "First Category," was still one of Europe's better referees.

Kelly's blunder just goes to show that no matter how good the referees are, bad calls happen (like they did with the unionized refs). If we're going to pull a referee lockout story from Kelly's performance Saturday afternoon, it's that the guy who gifted a point to the Rapids is supposed to be training the guys PRO and MLS won't let do their jobs.