In the 35 years that the Dallas Cup has been held, the U.S. Soccer Referee Program can take away an impressive distinction from this year’s event.
“We were told by the Dallas Cup administration that this was the best-officiated tournament that they’ve had,” said former U.S. Soccer FIFA referee Sandy Hunt.
Those words speak volumes, passed along from a groundbreaking referee who holds the distinction as one of the first two women’s referees to manage a Major League Soccer game.
Hunt served as a mentor during the 2014 Dallas Cup, which was held from April 13-20. The U.S. Soccer Referee Program had 12 referees at the Dallas Cup and 12 referees at the 2014 MLS U-17 Tournament, which was held in conjunction in the greater Dallas area.
With this group of referees on hand, these two events provided a much more hands-on environment to analyze and instruct the men and women who have already shown tremendous dedication to their craft all over the country in various Development Academy and professional settings.
“We [as mentors] don’t do formal assessments on these games – it’s more about gathering information and providing feedback, both individually and to the group,” Hunt said. “There are common themes that we will discuss and skills that apply for everyone to help refine and develop their work.”
“It was really helpful, because sometimes there are moments where you need that person to let us know where we can improve and do better,” southern California-based referee Reyna Fonseca said. “There are moments during a game where you don’t notice your work and you need some good feedback. It’s hard to remember every minute.”
Fonseca certainly was a fitting example of the high caliber and commitment of the group at the Dallas Cup. Fonseca is a single mother of two children, attends Santa Ana College and has somehow found the time to referee for the past five years, volunteering in the beginning and increasingly working her way up.
“Some days, I don’t know how I do it,” Fonseca said.
Fonseca originally was on an assistant referee path, but now she is away from the sideline and taking control in the center of the pitch.
“She is an exceptional prospect as a referee,” Hunt said of Fonseca. “From what I have observed, it is rare to find people who have the combination of skills and savvy that she displays. She has a chance to develop into a great referee.
“She has passed the FIFA men’s referee test, and her dedication has been clear from the start,” Hunt said. “She displays an uncanny ability to read the game, has a high understanding of the tactics of games at this level, and she knows how to manage players in a calm manner.”
Just how noteworthy was her performance at the event?
“She worked in a knockout match and both teams and sets of players congratulated her,” Hunt said of the quarterfinal game between the FC Dallas U-17s and Chargers SC. “She did an exceptional job and was solid. She has some talent and good coaching, and working games in southern California has contributed to her success.”
“I’m working hard and would like to get to a higher level of refereeing games,” Fonseca said. “I’m hoping to do some international matches and go to different tournaments – the Academy Finals, Open Cup, those kinds of things – to be seen.”
Bernhard Hosu, also based in southern California, had a successful event and also had the opportunity to work a match at the Cotton Bowl. Hosu is a member of U.S. Soccer’s Platinum Program, so this high-level instruction has helped him as he advances in his referee career.
“The Platinum Program has the best instructors in the country, and you cannot ask for more when you go to this kind of event,”Hosu said. “It’s the best experience and feedback, because they will give you different things to work on that will benefit us in the long run.”
The feedback on Hosu’s performance at the Dallas Cup included some high remarks.
“Bernie is certainly another referee who did very well,” Hunt said. “He has strong dedication to fitness and is always in the right place. He has the right skillset and knows how to read the game and the tactics. He’s also a very good listener, and that has helped him have a clear idea of how to implement information into a game. He is dedicated to that task.”
The tournament did have its challenges, but that only enhanced the importance of having the likes of Hunt and other instructors on site to lean on their expertise and continue improving.
“After the games were over, we debriefed and talked about our games,” Hosu said. “What did you think about your game? Did you manage things the right way? With these teams and tournaments, you have different styles of players. You also have different countries, so you also have to manage how you talk to foreign players – if they don’t speak English, being more visual and showing things. It was a good experience.”
Hosu first started refereeing in 2008, and while as a former player he had a different outlook of this chosen work, he has embraced it since and wants to continue earning higher-level assignments.
“My goal is to get to the professional level in MLS,” Hosu said. “I think the Platinum Program has been great, to work international games like the Nike Friendlies in Florida. These games challenge you as a referee. The Dallas Cup was the same. You need to be in perfect shape for these games and show that you are ready.”
Fonseca’s and Hosu’s performances were just a sample size of what Hunt said was a well-rounded effort from the entire referee base that worked in a well-run set of events.
“In these programs, all of the referees take these types of events very seriously,” Hunt said. “It’s a second profession for them. They have a great love of the game and are eager to be better referees, to take the time and energy to study and refine their skills and management.”
“This was my first time ever at the Dallas Cup, so I was really excited to attend it,” Fonseca said. “The level of play was great, and I was really impressed with the professionalism of everyone – the teams, the referees, as well as the meetings and feedback. It was high-level soccer.”
U.S. Soccer Referee Program
Officials at Dallas Cup and MLS U-17 Tournament
Officials: Cedric Adams, Elie Aguilar, Timon Berry, Alex Chilowicz, Richonne Clark, Reyna Fonseca, Bernhard Hosu, Elvis Mahmutovic, Alejandro Mariscal, Kathryn Nesbitt, Deleana Quan, Kristen Salazar
Instructors: Sandy Hunt, Don Wilbur
MLS U-17 Tournament
Officials: Kyle Atkins, Ramon Bermudez Jr., Marcos Deoliveira, Randall Kelley, Younes Marrakchi, Caleb Mendez, Victor Rivas, Nima Saghafi, Danny Thornberry, Rubiel Vazquez, Marco Vega, Michael Zapata
Instructors: Rick Eddy, Kevin Terry