HARRISON, N.J. – Live experimentation with new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology continued on Friday night in official USL competition at Red Bull Arena.
After Ismail Elfath made history last Friday as the first-ever head referee to employ VAR technology, this week it was the turn of Hilario Grajeda, who was slightly less busy. While Elfath referred to the sideline monitors on two occasions, the match between USL leaders New York Red Bulls II and Louisville needed just one second-half review.
It came in the 70th minute as New York Red Bull II winger Junior Flemmings was fouled on the edge of the 18-yard box. Grajeda called the foul on the field, but pointed to a free kick outside the box. With the player down injured head, Grajeda focused on the player’s well-being before being alerted from the booth by VAR Allen Chapman that he believed there was a clear and obvious error on the location of the field and an on-field review was necessary.
“Allen came on the audio, we went through every detail, step by step, which we had to follow protocol. After that, he recommended that I could go check myself and it was clear that the foul happened inside the penalty area,” Grajeda told MLSsoccer.com after the match.
After reviewing the play at the midfield review area, Grajeda then decided that a PK was the correct decision.
Chapman, who served in the VAR role for the second straight week, noted that there were noticeable improvements in the overall process.
“The communication was better hopefully to alleviate the time,” he said. “Last week we had a challenge in the second half that took a little too long and so the process of communicating to the referee on the field that an on-field review [was necessary] was quicker [the second time] to send them to the monitor and that alleviated some time.”
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), MLS, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and USL will continue their trial in the three remaining regular season home games for New York Red Bulls II. So far the results seem promising.
“We’ve had two live games and it’s history. We’ve created history over the last two weeks,” said PRO Training & Development Manager, Paul Rejer, on Friday. “I am delighted how well it’s gone.”