ATLANTA – It was a bizarre play, the sort of referee decision – either by the book or one that fans slap with a nickname that sticks long after the other details are forgotten.
On Wednesday night at the Georgia Dome, the US national team – depending on your vantage point – saw a handball call that was neither routine nor straightforward set up Jamaica forward Giles Barnes’ game-winning free-kick goal in the 36th minute. The game finished 2-1 in Jamaica's favor, sending the Caribbean nation to the Gold Cup final for the first time in their history -- and sending the US to the third-place consolation game.
Following a corner kick corralled by Brad Guzan, the US goalkeeper charged toward the top of his area, opting for a long throw down field to forward Aron Johannsson. Only the whistle blew before the play could develop, as referee Ricardo Montero, with help from his assistant referee, whistled for a handball, ruling the ball was outside the 18-yard box before Guzan released the ball.
Replays showed that was the case, but US captain Michael Bradley still had a hard time wrapping his mind around the decision.
“This play that leads to the second goal is a head scratcher,” Bradley told reporters after the game. “You don’t see it very often. It’s not a call that I would be making if I were a referee, but I’m not a referee.”
And what did the man actually called for the handball think?
“In all of my years of being professional, I don’t think I’ve seen that call,” Guzan said, “especially seeing a seeing a still image of it – maybe an inch or two [outside the 18-yard box].
“If the linesman is going to make that decision, I think he has to be right on the top of the 18. I saw where he was, and he was probably about two or three yards behind it. Those decisions sometimes don’t go in your favor. There’s a free kick, you’ve got defend it and he’s taken it well.”