Let's talk body language.
San Diego goalkeeper Victor Nogueira was given a red card Saturday when he gave what referee Herb Silva interpreted as "The Italian Salute" during the Sockers' 8-2 victory over the Blast.
The incident, which could carry a one-game suspension,occurred during one of the longest-running goal-keeping shows in Major Soccer League history. Tonight, against the Tacoma Stars, Nogueira is expected to set the Sockers record for consecutive games played by a goalkeeper at 44. If he keeps the streak alive, he will set the league mark at 52 on March 28 at Wichita. But Nogueira feels no great pressure to do it.
"I don't get what a big deal this Ironman stuff is," said Nogueira, whose Sockers are 21-8. "To me, there is no point. I like to play when I'm 100 percent. But I see guys who feel they have to start the game, even if they're hurt, to keep some streak alive. That's not me. If I need a rest, I'll ask for one."
And, in fact, he did just that yesterday.
"But Ron [coach Ron Newman] didn't listen to me," Nogueira said. "He wants everything to be a joke."
Saturday's incident occurred late in the third quarter, when Blast forward Jean Harbor and Nogueira went after a ball. Nogueira cleared it, but Harbor's momentum carried him into Nogueira, and Nogueira hit hard against the boards.
The official on the scene called nothing, and both the official and Harbor turned and were headed away from the goalkeeper when Nogueira used his body language.
"I wasn't directing it at anyone -- no one but Herb was even looking at me," Nogueira said. "It wasn't meant to be anything ugly. It wasn't meant to be something like the finger. That's gross, and I'd never do that."
Newman said the incident was a simple matter of misinterpretation.
"All Victor was saying was: 'Excuse me, Mr. Referee, are you sure you made the right call?' I'm sure that's what he meant," Newman said.
Even in the league office, deputy commissioner John Borozzi, who will review films of the incident and read the official referee report today to determine if the standard $80 fine should stand or be increased, thought misinterpretation a sound defense.
"I know there are times when you get that itch on the inside of your arm and it is anatomically impossible to scratch it using the hand on that arm," Borozzi said. "Sometimes, when you raise your arm to scratch it, it can be misconstrued. Being Italian, I know that."
But Nogueira, being of Portuguese decent, born in Maputo, Mozambique (an overseas province of Portugal on the southeast coast of Africa), and educated in South Africa, has no Italian heritage.
And, evidently, he misinterpreted how the movement would be viewed.
"I really didn't mean anything by it, other than I was irritated," Nogueira said. "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry. And I'll tell Herb Silva that when I see him."
Nogueira didn't offend the fans. After the game, as he was signing autographs, fans started handing him dollar bills to pay the fine.
"One of the women in the booster club started collecting them," he said. "It amounts to about $100. So the fine is paid."
The Prekster: St. Louis all-star midfielder Preki had six goals and four assists in two games last week to earn the MSL Offensive Player of the Week honor. Two of those goals came as he was playing on the penalty-killing unit against Wichita. The short-handed production ties a league record held by a number of players, including Baltimore native Tim Wittman, who plays for the Sockers.
The save maker: Veteran Tacoma goalkeeper Mike Dowler made 27 saves on 63 shots in two victories against San Diego and Baltimore last weekend, to earn the MSL Defender honor. Dowler, 14-15, with a 5.50 goals-against average overall, had a two-game GAA of 3.01. He beat the Blast, 5-4, and the Sockers, 4-2.
About those calls: After reviewing tapes of the Blast's game against the Wichita Wings, Borozzi said, "I'm satisfied and confident with the standard of officiating in [that game]."
Borozzi added it is possible to view small pieces of tape from an entire game and get an inaccurate picture of the event.
"I bet I looked at the play involving Domenic Mobilio 10 times," Borozzi said. "And I'm still not sure. But watching the whole thing in context, it is obvious it was a competitive and physical game and the refs were trying to maintain control. The whistle was blown. Was it a fast whistle? Would that call be made again in another game? I don't know. But I have no problem with the overall effort."
The Blast had filed a formal complaint about the officiating in its game at Wichita, Feb. 23.