As United States soccer fans worldwide tried Friday to solve exactly what was going on in the mind of referee Koman Coulibaly, San Jose Earthquakes rookie Steve Beitashour came up with a theory that sounded more plausible than most.
Coulibaly disallowed what seemed to be a game-winning goal by the Americans’ Maurice Edu in the 86th minute of what eventually became a 2-2 tie with Slovenia in Group C action on Friday. With a victory, the U.S. would have grabbed four points and the top spot in the pool; instead, they have two points and sit in second place by goal-differential over England.
Beitashour was watching at home before the Quakes practiced Friday and noticed that Coulibaly’s whistle sounded just as -- if not slightly before -- Landon Donovan delivered a beautifully arcing free kick directly to Edu’s left foot.
“I think (Coulibaly) was trying to stop the play before it happened because everyone was mixing in together,” Beitashour said. “Sometimes the refs, on a corner, they’ll blow the whistle really early if they see everybody tangled up. They’ll settle everyone down, say, ‘Hey, I’m watching you guys.’”
“Then he saw that they scored, and I think he just called it against the U.S. so he didn’t have to say, ‘do it over.’ Because it looks bad when they score and you say that. So I think he just said, ‘Hey, let’s go the other way.’”
It was as good an explanation as any for the mysterious play, which overshadowed both the Americans’ defensive foibles in the first half, leading to a 2-0 deficit, and their strong second-half response.
“I’m happy and angry at the same time,” fellow Quakes rookie Ike Opara said of the result.
“It’s good that we came back and tied, but we should have won,” Beitashour said.
On a positive note, Beitashour, a San Jose native, is reveling in the attention soccer is getting from friends in his hometown because of the World Cup.
“I love it because everybody around us enjoys it and is watching it,” Beitashour said. “Typically, people are involved in football, baseball and basketball. But now everyone’s like, ‘World Cup! World Cup! World Cup!’ They might not know as much as we’d like them to, but at least they’re following it. They’re bringing it up, so that’s good.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes.