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“I had a tear in my eye as we exited the field” – CJ Morgante reflects on CONCACAF Gold Cup

PRO’s CJ Morgante was part of the officiating roster assigned to the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup held across North America during July.

After a string of good performances, Morgante was assigned to the role of Assistant Referee for the Final between Mexico and Jamaica at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, and we caught up with the 41-year-old to reflect on his time at the tournament.

What were your thoughts heading to the Gold Cup – were you excited to be involved?

I was honored to be selected for what was my third Gold Cup.  I was more excited this year than the previous tournaments in 2009 and 2011, mainly because I knew more of what to expect and had a better understanding of the magnitude of the games.

My previous Gold Cup experiences with elite instructors, assessors and other referees gave me more knowledge and confidence as an assistant referee at the highest level.

How did you and your other officials prepare and train at the tournament? Did you learn anything from being in the company of referees from other countries?

We had fitness training and practical training every morning, along with classroom sessions in the afternoon, where we analyzed game clips and debriefed each game.

Working with other referees from other countries at this level allows each of us to grow and learn from each other. From each Gold Cup that I have attended, I feel that I have left the experience a better referee with a better understanding of the game. I can attribute this to the elite instructors, elite assessors, and elite referees invited to this tournament.

What was your reaction when hearing that you would be AR in the 2015 Gold Cup Final?

I felt that I had a good tournament with the four previous games, but wasn’t sure if a fifth game was possible in the same tournament, especially the Final.

When I was selected, I was extremely excited and nervous and could not believe that this opportunity was actually happening. It was hard for me to believe that I was chosen to work with such an elite group of referees in the 2015 Gold Cup Final.

I was also very excited that the tournament was coming to a close in my home state of Pennsylvania, because it made it possible for my family to come to the game – I was very proud to share this moment with them.

Did you feel any different ahead of the Final? Were you more nervous than you were in your four appearances prior to this match?

Yes, I was much more nervous heading into the final. I knew that I’d had a good tournament so far, and I had to be very focused and spot-on with every decision in my final match. I wanted to be able to look back at the game and be proud of every decision that I made with no major mistakes.

How did you and your officiating crew prepare for the match – did anything differ for the Final? 

The preparation was the same as any other Gold Cup game. The crew ate lunch together to discuss the game and had a private meeting with our assessor/coach mentor after lunch.

We did spend a little more time discussing each other’s refereeing styles and techniques because the crew was from three different countries and had not worked together before.

How did you feel the match went from an officiating point of view?

I felt that the crew worked very well together. I felt the game was very well managed, and that our decisions did not impact the outcome of the game. Both Mexico and Jamaica played really well and it was an enjoyable game to be part of.

What was the atmosphere like during the tournament as a whole, and the Final itself with over 68,000 fans in attendance? How did it feel to be part of such a big occasion?

I looked forward to every game I was assigned to at the tournament. For me, there is such an adrenaline rush when you are involved in a big game and you can feel the fans’ passion – whether they are chanting with excitement or even protesting referee decisions.

I had a tear in my eye as we exited the field at the end of the Final – I was very proud to be part of such a big occasion and was so happy that the whole referee crew was able to walk off with our heads held high.

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