Jermaine Jones apologizes for handball incident, insists "it was 100 percent a penalty"

Up a goal in the waning minutes of their Eastern Conference Knockout Round match, D.C. United were doing their best to fend off the New England Revolution, who were scratching and clawing their way toward a potential equalizer when controversy erupted.

In the midst of second-half stoppage time, the Revs' Jermaine Jones picked up a pass in the box with his left foot, and his touch sent the ball toward the arm of D.C. defender Sean Franklin.

Instantly Jones threw his hand in the air calling for a handball, hoping earn the Revolution a penalty. But when the whistle remained silent, the fiery midfielder exploded and sprinted toward referee Mark Geiger, earning his second yellow card of the match and an ejection, then making contact while continuing to argue with the official.

“I think everybody who came today could see it, it was 100-percent a penalty,” Jones said. “My passion then after maybe went a little bit high, but I think it’s normal. It's only two minutes to go, and then you’re out. For what happened after, I would say I’m sorry, maybe because I play with the national team it cannot happen, but it happened. People who know me, they know that I’m not a good loser. In that moment I was really upset, I think if you give Scotty [Caldwell]’s penalty, you have to give this penalty, too.”

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In addressing the pool reporter's questions after the match, Geiger stated that the "defender's arm was in a natural position. Because of the short distance, there was also no time to react. Case of ball-to-hand." 

Franklin agreed with Geiger’s assessment. “It hit my hand, but my hand was in a natural position," Franklin said. "As far as the other handball, that [Alvaro] Sabo[rio] tried to hit, his [Scott Caldwell's] arm was up. But whatever, that play is done, the game is done and we’re moving on. That’s all I care about.”

The other handball was probably a catalyst for Jones' late emotional outburst, given that it went against the Revolution in the 74th minute when Scott Caldwell’s right arm caught a piece of an Alvaro Saborio pass in the box, giving D.C. a spot kick.

New England was lucky to escape that incident when D.C.'s Chris Rolfe banked his penalty kick off of the left post, though the D.C. forward later exacted revenge with his 83rd-minute.

“He [the referee] is real quick. He says, ‘penalty,’ and we have to take it; they miss it,” Jones said in reference to the Caldwell call. “We get the exact same, the ball goes against the hand, the guy from D.C. says the same, he says, 'Yeah, it’s a handball.' And I go to [the referee] and I don’t like how he handled it and how he says it, like with a little bit of arrogance.”

“It’s tough,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said of the handball debate. “They can go either way. I don’t even know what a handball in the box is anymore. I really don’t. Ball to hand, hand to ball, I don’t know. Some of it’s gray, some of it is in the referee’s hands.” 

Despite Jones’ reaction in the heat of the moment and his continued dismay following the result, the Revs' Designated Player did express remorse about the incident.

“I apologize for the situation and what I did after,” Jones said. “I apologize, for a national-team player and all that kind of stuff, it cannot happen, and I’m sorry for that.  But, who knows me knows that I hate to lose and I would not go crazy if I’m not 100-percent sure that’s a penalty.

“From man to man, to Geiger, I would say I’m sorry for what happened, and it won’t happen again.”

Additional reporting by Pablo Maurer