Peter Vermes didn't mince words ] about the offside call that cost Sporting Kansas City two road points. Neither did the head of the Professional Referees Organization – or the official who made the call.
PRO Executive Director Peter Walton, a former Premier League referee, told MLSsoccer.com that assistant referee Matthew Nelson should not have called off Ike Opara's 29th-minute goal in Sporting's 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Sunday.
“It was clearly a wrong call and one that cannot be justified,” Walton said in an emailed statement. “At this early stage, it appears that the assistant loses focus and concentration on a crucial play.”
That's exactly what happened, Nelson told The Washington Post's Steven Goff: “I misjudged the play.”
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And in doing so, Nelson may have done in Sporting's chance to take all three points from the East's cellar-dwellars, though the visitors also failed to take advantage of their other opportunities.
“Whether he lost concentration, whether he just doesn't know the rules, there were just a lot of different things where the guy made a big mistake,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “It's unfortunate, because it's two points over the course of the season.”
Replays showed that Opara, who put his hands to his head and stared in disbelief at Nelson's call, was well onside when Jacob Peterson played the ball to him for an easy tap-in.
"I scored the goal,” he said. “The whole team is always going to yell for offsides in that instance. But when I looked up, there were maybe two guys who were yelling who were ahead of me, so I thought, 'There's no way I am offsides.' And I look over and he's holding his flag up.”
Opara had to know why.
“After the game, I just asked him, 'Was I offsides?', and he said, 'I haven't seen the replay yet, so we'll see,'” Opara said. “So I said, 'Fair enough.' I think he's going to be disappointed by his decision. But, I mean, it's a mistake. They happen in the game, so we'll move forward.”
And despite Walton's strong words, Sporting could take little comfort from PRO's stance on the call.
"Can they give us the two points? No,” winger Graham Zusi said. “I'd like to see it be called correctly the first time."
Opara appeared to get a measure of vindication at the hour mark, when his flick-on header went off Ethan White's head and into the United net. Instead, White was charged with an own-goal.
"It hit me first and then it hit one of their guys,” Opara said. "It would've been redemption if they'd given it to me, but they gave it as an own goal, so, either way I think I got screwed tonight in terms of a goal."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.