As Oklahoma City Energy FC prepares to face Los Angeles Galaxy II at 7 p.m. Saturday, questions still remain as to why Energy FC’s match with Arizona United on Thursday was cut short, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
Energy FC coach Jimmy Nielsen said after Thursday’s match he thought there would be seven minutes of added time to the end of the game, but referee Leland Grant blew the final whistle in the 93rd minute. Players from both Energy FC and Arizona United rushed toward Grant demanding to know why the game was stopped. An Oklahoma City police officer ran onto the field to escort Grant and the other officials to their locker room.
The Professional Referees Organization handles assignments and all responsibilities for the United Soccer League’s Pro division, and its rules state that no one, including media and team officials, are allowed to approach a referee after a match. According to Energy FC general manager Jason Hawkins, there was no indication as to why the match was called early.
“We received the game report that the referees fill out after every match,” Hawkins said. “There was not anything in the report that says why the game was shortened or anything like that. We can ask PRO, and they can ask the referee. We can’t ask the referee.”
United Soccer League president Tim Holt said referees are not employed by the league, and USL doesn’t even assess referees’ performances.
“We’ve referred this matter to PRO for them to do their own exploration or investigation,” Holt said.
PRO could not be reached for a comment.
Holt said the league is under the impression five minutes of stoppage time was the official call, which still begs the question, why was the whistle blown after three minutes?
“Admittedly, it’s a little unusual,” Holt said. “That’s a question I can’t answer. We’re still in the process of gathering all of the information.”
Holt said police officers going on the field to escort officials to their locker room happens every game, though Thursday was different.
“Many times with our (police), they don’t even go out to the referees,” Hawkins said. “Part of their role is escort of the officials. Were they there a little quicker than they normally would be? They do what they need to get them out of there quickly. I think it was purely in an effort to make sure that nothing escalated between the referee and the players.”
Referees reserve the right to stop, suspend or abandon the match, according to Law 5 of PRO’s rulebook. Typically, matches would be suspended for reasons such as weather, outside interference or an infringement of the laws according to PRO. So it remains unclear why Grant decided to end of the match early.
Energy FC didn’t practice Friday as it prepares for a match with L.A. Galaxy II. Oklahoma City is looking to extend its eight-game unbeaten streak.