Better Know a Ref

Better Know a Referee: Nima Saghafi

That suit is tailored up tight

Meet our referee – Nima Saghafi.

I’m here to chew bubble gum, and call penalties. I’m all out of gum.

There’s not much information available about Mr. Saghafi, no real interviews of substance. All I can say is that Nima is young. This year he appears to be just 27 years young, and he made his MLS debut at 26. Punching those numbers into the statatron97 leads me to believe that he was just 25 when he made his debut during the NASL spring season on May 10, 2015. With just 2 years under his belt, I hope he’s up to the task. He’s been a 4th official about 20 times in MLS, so I think he will at least know the players.

I could have sworn that any PTFC game was a marquise matchup which merited the finest referees that PRO has on offer, but twice in 9 games this season we have gotten a relatively young or inexperienced referee. This is in stark contrast to last year, when we were defending the MLS Cup. No matter, I’m game to blood the new guys.

Nima Saghafi appears to be from the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area, as Edmond Soccer Club was twitting about his debut at the MLS level when no one else seemed to bat an eye.

To his credit, Nima was rewarded for his hard work in the 2015 season by officiating the overtime thriller that was the USL championship. The game was bonkers, with the Rochester Rhinos edging past Los Dos in overtime after tying the game at one apiece in 2nd half stoppage time. Saghafi handed out 4 yellows during regular time, and used that good performance to springboard into MLS the following season. Nima felt prepared for the big game, “At every level you learn something new and different. My experiences at MLS and NASL level of management and staying calm in high pressure situations helped tremendously going into the USL Championship assignment.”

In his MLS debut, he got a big taste of the action – week 3 of 2016 had him in charge of Philly v NE and he dished out two reds, and a penalty! “Facing this assignment, it was understood for us as a team to be successful it was key to maintain a high level of work rate for 90+ minutes. Always remaining calm, focused and never allowing any situations to surprise us” Nima said after the game. In the two interviews I could find with him, he mentioned “work rate”… might be an indicator of what PRO is pushing on these young refs.

Speaking of what PRO is pushing, let’s talk VAR. In general, I’m in love with the idea of VAR… as long as it’s done quickly. That’s all I have to say about that. Nima Saghafi may have more to say, after using it to send of David Villa in a preseason game between NYCFU and Dynamo Houston.


Now, onto the STATS!

In 8 MLS games as center official, a very limited sample size, Nima actually looks pretty normal…


Keep in mind that an avg PRO blows the whistle 25 times a game, hands out 3.5 yellows, and a red card every 4 games. That penalty rate though, woof. Penalty every other game is not sustainable.



It was always going to be high variance since he’s had so few games in MLS, but what does it look like when we incorporate his previous experience in USL, NASL, and USOC?



The foul rate isn’t available for non-MLS games, but looking at yellows, reds, and pens per game show his average up slightly in the card department, but his penalty rate drop a bit. That’s a great thing, as a penalty every-other game is a crazy high rate (even if there’s real substantiation for it).

If you want a taste of Nima Saghafi’s demeanor on the field, I highly recommend this post from earlier in the season breaking down a wild game between the Rapids and Loons.



Taking a peak at a piecemeal yellow/foul ratio, which we take as analog for the way refs handle the game flow we see it’s nearly identical to Robert Sibiga, which I’ll take as encouraging. His ratio of yellows to fouls suggests he’ll clamp down on any shenanigans that the Quakes try to pull off before things get out of hand.

What should we expect against the San Hosers this weekend? I think Nima is going to continue putting his mark on the game, rightly or wrongly, so something like a coinflip for a penalty against Victor Bernardez, good shout for a red, at least 4 yellows, and an ugly choppy game, complete with Tommy Thompson rainbow heelflick to Lovell Palmer level skied shot.

I think I like Nima. He bad and boujee

(video credit to Shotboxer aka BeefCornDog aka STF photog Roscoe)

This has been BKAR – hopefully we keep getting new refs so I can spend an inordinate amount of time scouring the interwebs for information that almost no one cares for me to regurgitate. Except Jeremiah, he loves these things for some reason…

In case you missed it, or want to revisit, here’s the last BKAR: Robert Sibiga

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