UPDATE (5 pm ET; Thursday)
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber fined New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch an undisclosed amount for public criticism of the officials on Thursday.
ORIGINAL TEXT (9:38 am ET; Thursday)
We’re still a few days away from the final New York derby of the regular season, but Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch has already stoked the flames of the rivalry a little bit further.
The reigning MLS Coach of the Year told reporters on Wednesday that he believes New York City FC Designated Players David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard get preferential treatment from referees “who want to give the benefit of the doubt to star players.”
“Going into New York City this weekend, I respect the way David Villa plays,” Marsch said. “He’s a great player but every game I watch he gets a piece of every defender before the ball comes. He fouls throughout the entire game. He hardly ever gets called for it.”
“If he or Pirlo or Lampard get touched, they go down, they draw fouls, they draw yellow cards,” Marsch continued. “It’s an epidemic, an epidemic across the league of these referees who want to give the benefit of the doubt to star players.”
Villa has suffered 51 fouls this year, the most in MLS. Pirlo and Lampard have suffered far fewer, with Pirlo getting fouled 22 times in 19 regular appearances and Lampard suffering seven fouls in nine games.
The Red Bulls committed 16 fouls to NYCFC’s 14 in their 7-0 win at Yankee Stadium in May, then out-fouled NYCFC 13-10 in City’s 2-0 win over the Red Bulls in the Bronx on July 3. Both teams have been shown five yellow cards in the two matches (Pirlo picked up a caution in the second contest), and Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall earned the lone red card of the season series in the July meeting.
Mark Geiger will serve as the head referee for Sunday’s match between the Red Bulls and NYCFC at Red Bull Arena (1 pm ET; FOX in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada). Marsch wasn’t aware of the assignment at the time of his comments.
“So we’ll see what it’s like, we’ll see who gets assigned the game and we’ll see if he can handle the business,” he said.
"Hoping that we get a ref who understands how to ref the game this weekend."