Mark Geiger’s debut as a World Cup referee is drawing praise from those who follow soccer the closest. 

Referee Mark Geiger on the field as an MLS referee in 2012 (Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

The Beachwood native was the referee in Saturday’s match between Colombia and Greece and Geiger received rave reviews for the way he managed the game and controlled the players while also displaying a nice personality.  Fox Soccer Trax tweeted “Mark Geiger deserves a hat tip for his display in Columbia-Greece.  Rock solid in the middle.” 

The 39-year old Toms River South graduate retired early as a math teacher from Lacey High School to pursue a career as a soccer referee and it is clearly paying off.  He is one of only 9 salaried full-time professional referees in the MLS and on Saturday became the first American to work as the primary ref in a World Cup match since 2002. 

Geiger’s sister Karen was an outstanding player and later coach at Ocean County College who was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame last November.

Speaking of the World Cup, the United States plays its opener against Ghana tonight (6pm) in what is pretty much a must-win if the Americans have any hope of advancing out of pool play and making it to the round of 16.  While Ghana is certainly no easy opener the US will be decided underdogs in their other two matches in group play when they face Portugal and Germany.

Barnegat High School football standout Sam Madden won’t have any stress during his senior season over college choices.  That’s because the highly-recruited 6’7, 325 pound offensive tackle committed to the University of Wisconsin Sunday following an unofficial visit to Madison.  Madden had received more than 20 scholarship offers and chose the Badgers over Rutgers, Virginia, Miami and Iowa among others.  

Barnegat head coach Rob Davis said Madden felt very comfortable with the players and coaches at Wisconsin and loved the campus.  He also has a family connection as his cousin John Moffit was a four-year starter on the offensive line at Wisconsin from 2007-2010.  Davis and the Bengals have two other juniors garnering considerable attention from college recruiters. 

Linebacker Manny Bowen is one of the most sought-after players in New Jersey and has received some 30 scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Rutgers, South Carolina and Wisconsin.  Quarterback/Defensive back Cinjun Erskine is being looked at by many schools and has been offered scholarships by Miami, Fla and the University of Massachusetts.