US Referee Connection is pleased to welcome Mr. Armando Villarreal, MLS referee.
Armando, please accept a warm welcome to US Referee Connection.
When did you decide to become a referee, and who were some of the influences on your career?
- A local league where I used to play was in need of referees. I volunteered and that same day I was blowing the whistle for a U4 game. I was wearing a yellow shirt that in the back with big bold letters read“Referee in Training.” That summer I went to a USSF clinic and became a grade 8 referee. When I started in Brownsville, Texas, Pedro Trejo, a current national referee, was a big influence. I remember going on road trips to different cities like San Antonio, Austin, and Houston to referee in tournaments. When I was going up the ranks, Brian Hall was a big influence as well. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be living my dream. He identified me in the development academy showcases.
What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of the refereeing profession by coaches, players, fans and the media?
- Just the fact that they think we are not going to make mistakes. We are human beings and we have the right to make mistakes too.
From your perspective asa professional referee. What are the best and worst aspects of being a referee and/or assistant?
- The best aspect of the being a referee is having the best seat in town and being part of this beautiful game. We get to run around with the players and having the advantage of going to other cities to referee the game we love. On the other hand, our spot light is usually whenwe get known for a mistake that took place on the field.
In your opinion, what are the key attributes that a modern-day referee must have to be successful domestically and internationally?
- In our domestic league the referee has to be fit. The players are very fast and very fit. The referee has to be fit to be able to keep up throughout the entire game. Having prior knowledge of the teams/players. A referee in our domestic league has to do their homework by knowing how a team plays or the players that will be involved in the game.
How do you diffuse a volatile situation that you know players are about to explode?
- I try to remain calm at all times. Use my personality and never lose my cool. Be respectful to players if you want them to respect you.
What are your impressions about the proposal to add additional assistant’s referees on the field?
- If it’s going to help the game and help the referee’s make fewer mistakes, I’m in favor of it. Especially in set pieces inside the penalty area. It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes in the penalty area.
What do you thing about the ‘RESPECT” campaign that US.Soccer has launch?
- It’s a great idea! Referees are part of the game and hopefully the spectators will understand this.
With the new Professional Referee Organization (PRO), what do you think about the future of the refereeing in United States?
- I have no doubt it is going to grow. With the experience the PRO staff brings to the table, it will benefit all the referees. PRO has taken referring in the US to another level. Now we have full time and part time referees and this will help us grow as a referee family. Now we can focus on our fitness and classroom training 100% which were not available in the past years.
What’s your pre-match routine?
- Usually have some breakfast around 9am. Then relax in the room watching TV or being on the computer. Have lunch 6hrs before kickoff at the hotel or if there’s a restaurant walking distance. After that I’ll watch TV and maybe take a 30 minute nap. Then it’s off to the stadium.
Pre match meal?
- For breakfast I will have a small portion of egg & potatoes and sometimes an omelet; a wheat bagel with peanut butter and jelly. I will finish breakfast with a bowl of fruit topped with Greek vanilla yogurt. For lunch I usually get a grilled chicken sandwich. Throughout the day I’m drinking as much water as I can.
We all have bad games, how do you deal such match in your mind?
- For me the next day is the worse. I’m replaying the situation/s in my mind the whole timeI’m traveling back home. When I get home I try not to think about it, but my wife usually ask why I didn’t make that call (she’s a referee tooJ). I watch the replay of the game Tuesday’s and analyze the situations where I could have done better. After watching the game I move on and start thinking of the next game.
Tell about your style of officiating how would you describe it?
- I like to use my personality as much as I can. I’m still building my reputation in the league, so I try to be as close as I can to make that big call. I like to talk to players during dynamic play. I’m a big fan of teamwork. I’m a team player with my crew and will always take care of them.
Most memorable game moment?
- I will never forget my first middle in MLS. It was Chivas@NY and I was so nervous. When we walked the field I couldn’t believe I was going to be the referee for this game. I had an excellent crew and I had prepared well for the match. Fortunately, everything went well and had no controversy in the game.
How often do you train?
- I train five days a week, Sunday is my rest day which usually is traveling back from a game. I divide my trainings during the week. In the morning around 9am I go to the gym and do my strength training workout. In the afternoon around 6pm I do my conditioning workout. My recovery days involve either 2mile run or stationery bike for 30min, no strength training.
What are your plans or ambition as a referee for the near future?
- My aspiration is to get better by every game.I want to be a top referee in our league and hopefully one day become an international referee.
What advice would you give to anyone who desires to become a referee?
- Have the passion for the game. There are many opportunities as a referee today. Take advantage of the people around you. I have built a referee family in all my years. Becoming a soccer referee will not only benefit you by being part of the game, it will help in maintaining your fitness and living a healthy life style. Becoming a referee has been the second best thing that has happen to me; the first was marrying my wife.
Armando, thank you very much for your kind and insightful contribution to our Referee Community.