MLS acknowledges errors in LA-NY officiating, discussing issues with PRO

MLS VP of Competition, Jeff Agoos, told on Thursday that the league office earlier this week reviewed the officiating in Sunday’s 2-2 draw between the New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy, identifying errors, including two missed penalty kicks.

According to Agoos, the league has communicated its concerns and discussed the officiating decisions with the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), the organization responsible for the identification and development of referees in the US and Canada.

Sunday’s match featured a number of controversial decisions by referee Hilario Grajeda, including a pair of late Red Bulls penalty appeals that went uncalled, an LA penalty appeal early in the match and a slide tackle by LA’s Jeff Larentowicz that left New York defender Damien Perrinelle with a meniscus injury that will keep him out for four-to-six weeks. The MLS Disciplinary Committee on Thursday announced a one-match suspension for Larentowicz.

“We reviewed the New York-LA game and concluded that there had been two missed penalty kick calls late in the game,” Agoos said. “In addition, the Disciplinary Committee also determined that the foul by Jeff Larentowicz merited a one-game suspension.”

Most of the controversy in the match centered around two late penalty appeals that Grajeda waved off. The first came with New York leading 2-1 in the 85th minute and saw Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe charge off his line and collide with Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl in the box. The second came in the 90th, less than one minute after LA’s 2-2 equalizer, as Rowe appeared to miss the ball on another challenge off his line, tripping up NY winger Gonzalo Veron in the process.

Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was ejected from the match after the Veron non-call.

Agoos stated that “video review would have allowed for the review of these non-calls.” MLS is one of the first leagues in the world to participate in the development and testing of FIFA’s new video assistant referee (VAR) initiative in conjunction with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body that establishes and governs the Laws of the Game of soccer.

The video review program consists of an additional referee (VAR) positioned in a booth at the stadium where the VAR will be able to access video from every available camera angle. A communications system will allow the video assistant to alert and advise the head referee on goal calls, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity. The head referee will then have the option to stop the game and review the play.

MLS will be seeking IFAB approval to conduct live, in-competition VAR experiments once the league has met all the requirements set out by the world body. Those live experiments would run through 2018-2019, with IFAB deciding on whether to continue beyond that season.