A seemingly correct call made in unusual circumstances appeared to throw the Vancouver Whitecaps off their game as the LA Galaxy came from behind to win 2-1 Saturday night at the StubHub Center.
The play, on the game tying goal, occurred on 29 minutes as Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal finished from close range. The assistant referee initially flagged for offside, but after consulting with referee Chris Penso, the decision was made to award the goal.
“The assistant referee called the referee over to determine if No. 29 [Zardes] had touched the ball with his head before No. 33 [Villarreal] kicked the ball into the goal,” Penso wrote in response to a question from a pool reporter. “The referee determined that Zardes had not touched the ball, thus not making [Villarreal] offside. The goal was awarded.”
The goal was ruled good initially, but Penso’s brief consultation made it seem as if the crew had pulled a U-turn. That got into the heads of some of the players, according to Whitecaps midfielder Gershon Koffie.
“We went down right away,” Koffie told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the game. “The decision has been made and we can’t do nothing about it, so we had to play. But mentally it was difficult. This is the first time seeing [something like that ]in my life.”
Even Designated Player Kenny Miller, who has played hundreds of professional matches, admitted he’d rarely seen the like.
“It was a strange situation,” Miller said. “Obviously it was hard to take at the time when you think the goal’s not going to be given, but then the decision is overcome like that – it’s a bit disappointing.”
Adding to the intrigue, the Scottish forward told reporters down in Los Angeles that the referee provided an on-field explanation following the reversal of the call, and then a different explanation after half-time, when presumably there was a chance to look at a replay.
Ultimately, Miller conceded that despite the unusual circumstances of the game-tying goal, it was the team’s overall play that let them down.
“If you look at the game as a whole, the best team won on the night,” Miller said. “There’s no doubt about that. We never quite got to the level of performance we’ve shown both at home and the road of late.
“So it’s one that we’ll have to take it on the chin and move on to next week and make sure we get back to winning ways.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.