Some refereeing controversy was at the heart of Sunday night’s 1-1 draw between the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire FC at Subaru Park, one that left the visitors shaking their heads during online postgame press conferences.
Chicago were reduced to 10 men in the 34th minute after a Video Review, with Wyatt Omsberg sent off for denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity (DOGSO). The center back challenged Union forward Cory Burke on a through ball, a confrontation that prompted a collision with Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
The ensuing foul allowed for an equalizer from Union left back Kai Wagner, who rifled a free kick under the wall and past Shuttleworth, negating a go-ahead goal from Fire winger Przemyslaw Frankowski in the 10th minute.
For one, Chicago captain Francisco Calvo was adamant Omsberg didn’t even foul Burke and the sequence didn't necessitate a red card. Head coach Raphael Wicky had similar uncertainties, trying to carefully find the right words when assessing why head referee Michael Radchuk reduced them to 10 men.
“I can not say much. I mean, look, we have VAR, we have VAR,” Wicky said. “If they review it on VAR with slow motion, with a lot of people and they think it's a red card, then we need to trust them that it's a red card. But it's very, very soft. It is what it is. I have seen it once. I didn't see in slow motion what they saw, but apparently Wyatt hit his knee or something.”
Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin contended that Omsberg’s dismissal was deserved. But he also had frustrations over their inability to capitalize on a 25-4 shots advantage and 13-1 edge in corner kicks. Shuttleworth had a more comfortable night than the balance may have suggested.
“I thought overall it’s a night where obviously there’s a red card, a deserved red card,” Curtin said. “From there, we kind of come into the game, Kai scores a good goal, we put them under a lot of pressure.
“Once again, we have them pinned in and we create the 25 shots, but just the final decision making, I think we can be a little bit sharper with so that we’re scoring three, four goals a game, rather than scraping out with just one. So that obviously has to improve. It’s obviously an empty feeling here at home.”
On a bright note, Chicago showed resolve to earn their first road point of the 2021 MLS season. They had lost their previous five games away from Soldier Field, and to do it against the reigning Supporters’ Shield champions while shorthanded is no small feat.
Had Omsberg stayed on for the 90 minutes plus stoppage time? Perhaps Chicago would have stolen all three points.
“Great credit to the team, great effort and I'm proud of what they have done because it's not easy, the situation where we are,” Wicky, who recently returned after a family-related absence, said. “Last week the results didn't come and then you come here and then you're winning 1-0 and then you go down a man. We immediately conceded the draw, the 1-1, so great reaction. It meant something and I think everyone showed a lot of character.”