HARRISON, N.J. – Some of members of the New York Red Bulls shied away from it as if it was taboo. Others tiptoed around it. A select few discussed it.
Referee Fotis Bazakos whistled New York defender Jamison Olave for a handball in the 83rd minute of the match after the ball appeared to hit Olave in the chest/shoulder area, but Lee Nguyen converted the ensuing penalty kick before Tim Cahill eventually rescued a 2-2 draw for the Red Bulls with a goal in stoppage time.
Cahill’s heroics, however, still did not stop most of New York’s squad from feeling perplexed by Bazakos’ decision to award the penalty in the first place. That was especially the case with Olave, who showed the second-year MLS official the mark the ball left on his jersey in a futile attempt to prove his innocence.
“I was surprised because that wasn’t a handball,” Olave said. “It wasn’t a penalty kick. I asked the referee and all he kept on saying was sorry… sorry, sorry and [then it was] goal, 1-1.”
While Olave touched on the matter directly, others tried to avoid it like the plague. Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke and captain Thierry Henry were among those that attempted to refrain from talking about the play, hoping to prevent any potential disciplinary action from MLS.
“I will not mention the last 20 minutes because I will have to mention someone else,” said Henry while giving his postgame thoughts. “I don’t actually want to do it. I will let [the media] do it. You don’t get fined and stuff, so that’s way better.”
Said Petke: “There’s a giant ball mark pretty much on his chest, well inside shoulder. I just told him to get it to the laundry mat to get that dirt off of there. You guys heard what I said right? That’s all I said. There’s a ball mark on his chest area.”
Despite the controversial nature of the call, New York know they could have avoided such a game-altering scenario had they killed off the match earlier, and Cahill even sympathized with Bazakos despite labeling the penalty kick dubious.
“You have to work with the referees and the officials,” Cahill said. “When you watch the replay then he might think it hit his shoulder, but he doesn’t get to see that straight away. He has to react at the heat of the moment and he’s got [no] different angles.
“For us, it’s frustrating but it must be frustrating for him as well because there are so many situations that referees get put in,” he added. “We got a draw out of it.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.