Correct call? LAFC late equalizer ruled out in El Trafico loss to LA Galaxy

Video Review giveth, Video Review taketh away.

That reality hit LAFC hard on Saturday evening, with Latif Blessing’s would-be equalizer in the 97th minute of El Trafico rescinded after a closer look from the officiating crew deemed that teammate Mamadou Fall was offside in the buildup.

That flipped the scoreboard back to 2-1 in LA Galaxy’s goodwill, putting this star-studded rivalry’s 14th edition in favor of the five-time MLS Cup champions at their Dignity Health Sports Park home.

The controversy-filled moment left LAFC manager Steve Cherundolo not wanting to go in-depth, though the first-year boss noted he was not happy with “the finishing tonight or the officiating.” There was also a narrow offside call against Carlos Vela in the 28th minute, which would have leveled the match at 1-1 after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez opened the scoring – a dream start as the Mexican superstars met in MLS for the first time.

“I think we were very unlucky not to get a point tonight,” Cherundolo said. “I think if two calls go our way, we definitely get a point and maybe we get three. Those calls were very close and I'll review them again, which is why I won't comment on them right now. But from what I understand, the refs could've called them either way. So we were a little bit unlucky with those tonight."

The play in question saw Vela fire a cross from the left flank across the Galaxy’s six-yard box, and it bounced to the far post for Fall’s initial shot. The ball then fell to Blessing centrally, and the Ghanaian thought he rescued a point in the battle for Los Angeles bragging rights.

But Video Review deemed the Senegalese center back offside, with Galaxy defender Nick DePuy’s previous block a subject of debate re: intentionality.

On Sunday, Professional Referee Organization (PRO) shared a detailed explanation of the disallowed play, including the audio exchange from the referees. The explainer covers Fall's original offside call and shows how Blessing would have been offside anyway, as interpreted by the officials.

For goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, the closer look from referee Chris Penso provided sweet relief after Blessing's bundled-home shot.

“It was a horrible moment,” Bond said. “But then when you see the referee doing this [puts finger to earpiece] for longer than kind of 10, 15 seconds, you start to wonder, you think maybe there was something wrong with that goal. And everyone saw very clearly on the screen, they showed it on screen and it was very clearly offside. So the right decision is the right decision, as difficult as that is to take.”

Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney added postgame that it was the correct decision because “offsides is black and white, it's not gray.” And Chicharito affirmed an offside call was the proper one as well, in his eyes.

“There's been so many goals that they don't give me, that they weren't offsides and the opposite, I scored a few goals that were offside,” Chicharito said. “Right now that's a good thing about the VAR, that it's more fair. So we'll take the three points, LA Galaxy deserve that.”

The divergent camps are natural, and debates are sure to linger among the fanbases. Ultimately, the result served as LAFC’s first defeat of the year and kept LA undefeated in El Trafico at their home ground.

“It's tough to say,” LAFC midfielder Ilie Sanchez said. “For me, once we cross it I think that it's easy to touch it again and then one of the defenders makes a new play because they touch it and that should be a play in our favor, a new play. You all see that we put it in. I don't want to complain about it. I think that we did everything to deserve at least a tie, if not more.”