Patrick Vieira: “They’re telling us one thing and they’re doing something completely different.” (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — Don’t expect the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) to put Patrick Vieira on its Christmas card list any time soon.
That’s because the New York City FC head coach took a swipe at Major League Soccer game officials Sunday.
After City failed to advance in the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs, Vieira was asked a rather mundane question by a reporter:
“What is at the top of your list of things to improve next season?”
Vieira’s answer surprised the media in the interview room at Yankee Stadium.
“The referees,” he said as reporters laughed.
But the 1998 World Cup winner wasn’t joking.
“The referees because when you look at the two legs, you look at the first leg and you look at the sending off,” he said about the red card to center back Alexander Callens in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, which City lost 4-1. “And you see the impact it had on the game.”
Callens could not play in the second leg.
Drew Fischer worked the middle of the first leg, Kevin Stott the second leg at Yankee Stadium Sunday night.
“And you look at the referee again today with the time, losing time,” said Vieira, who felt that Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zach Steffen was allowed to take too much time before distributing the ball, taking valuable time off the clock.
“It’s really frustrating, really frustrating,” Vieira said.
City recorded a 2-0 win at the stadium, but fell one goal short of tying Columbus, which won the aggregate-goals series, 4-3.
Vieira wasn’t finished, as he seemingly took on the entire referee program.
“We tried to build a relationship with the referees,” he said. “We spend time when they come in to our preseason and we have to stop training and make our program around them.
“They come in and they [say to] us all this kind of conduct, yellow cards and players who try to lose time. They’re telling us one thing and they’re doing something completely different. So, I hope the referees will be better next year.”