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Hand balls create controversy

Vicky Jacobsen | Sunday, December 15, 2013

CHESTER, Pa. – It’s not very often that a player apologizes for scoring a goal. Then again, it’s not very often two apparent hand balls are committed in the same scoring play – or that both violations to go unpunished.

But that seems to be what happened Sunday afternoon at PPL Park during the national championship game.

“That was definitely a crazy play,” Maryland senior forward Patrick Mullins said. “A lot of things happened in a short period of time. From what I can remember, a cross came in, our player – I’m pretty sure [Alex] Shinsky – had a great shot. It did hit the kid’s hand on the line, it bounced out, came back out and I made a mistake on my part. I’m very disappointed in myself for doing that, but in the heat of the moment, I hit it down my hand, and like any good forward, I put it in the net.”

That goal put the No. 5 Terrapins (17-3-5, 7-1-3 ACC) ahead, 1-0, against No. 3 Notre Dame (17-1-6, 7-1-3). The Irish would go on to score twice more winning the title 2-1 and rendering the legitimacy of Mullins’s final collegiate goal moot. But the Maryland star still said he was embarrassed by his action, which could have warranted a caution had the referees called the violation.

“It’s definitely hard for me to swallow because I don’t think that’s the type of player I am,” Mullins said. “Obviously the referee is a great referee, and I’m sure he’ll look back unfortunately on that play, too, because it was just a lot of plays that I’m sure players and refs will want to take back. I will regret that one for the rest of my life, but I’ll move forward. People make mistakes.”

His coach was impressed by his public apology, and said that Mullins’s public show of regret revealed the senior’s strong character.

“When we build my stadium, we’re going to bronze a statue of him in the front because he’s made of the best stuff on Earth,” Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. “It affected him a lot after that moment. … His conscience was hurting. He put too much on himself. There were many players that had intentional hand balls in the game. It’ll be a learning lesson for him, but his character shining through is worthy of a championship.”

Mullins was not the only one whose actions on that play were called into question. Replay clearly showed that Irish sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan was standing in front of the goal when a shot bounced off his elbow, preventing a goal (although Mullins did score off the ricochet). If the officials believe that such a move is done purposefully with the intent of preventing a goal, the player can be shown a red card and ejected from the game.

Hodan acknowledged that the ball did touch his arm, but denied that he consciously moved his elbow to stop the shot.

“I guess a little bit,” Hodan said when asked if he was surprised he was not shown a red card. “It was a nice header from the Maryland player, and it was just kind of a reaction. It wasn’t anything deliberate. It was closer to the shoulder, I’d like to say, but they ended up scoring anyway so it wasn’t too big of a deal.”

Although Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark acknowledged he had not yet seen the play on video, he backed Hodan.

“I thought it was his shoulder,” Clark said. “I knew our guys were annoyed at something else. They thought [Mullins] had brought the ball down with his hand and shot it. Maybe you say it was two hand balls, make it even.

“He didn’t put his hand to the ball, so it wasn’t like he did that. Chico [Grajeda] is a really good referee; these things happen.”

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu