MONTREAL – Marco Schällibaum has been upset plenty of times in his first season on the job in Major League Soccer this year, but he was downright livid on Saturday after his team’s surprising 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Stade Saputo.
While he recognized his team’s difficulties in the first half, he was stunned that referee Jorge Gonzalez overturned a penalty kick decision for an apparent handball by Vancouver defender Jun Marques Davidson in the 38th minute, which might have turned the tide of a game that eventually went down as the Impact’s second straight loss at home.
“To me, it’s a scandal,” Schällibaum told reporters in French. “It’s a scandal, because he makes a decision and then, all of a sudden, it isn’t a penalty. It changed the game.”
Schällibaum acknowledged that his team got off a to slow start –including a handball in the penalty box by defender Hassoun Camara that led to an early 1-0 lead for the visitors – but he harped on the Gonzalez decision as the key moment of a frustrating loss with the team’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
“For us, psychologically, the decision was nonsense,” Schällibaum said of the play, which was not replayed on the scoreboard at Stade Saputo. “As a referee, you have to make decisions. You make a decision, and then it’s gone.
"There was influence from players, coaches and the fourth official," he added. "If he allows himself to be influenced, then maybe I should do the same next time around.”
Similarly upset, Impact president Joey Saputo rhetorically asked on Twitter: “PK or not, how does the furthest official on the field, overturn a referee’s call?”
The officiating crew insisted after the game that the decision was made collectively, based on the ball striking Davidson’s “chest/shoulder area of the body with no intent to play the ball with his hand.”
“Mr. Gonzalez decided, based on input from the entire referee crew, that there was not an intentional handling of the ball on this play,” the officials wrote in reply to the Impact’s referee pool reporter, represented on Saturday by MLSsoccer.com. “The ball deflected off a Vancouver player and a corner kick was awarded.”
Schällibaum said he felt that the penalty call could have gotten his team back into the game, which added to his frustration at what he saw as an accumulation of decisions going against his team.
“[The fourth official] can’t influence a crucial decision like that,” Schällibaum said. “They go home, and we’ve got all that up our (expletive). The guys in yellow have to take their responsibilities. We take our responsibilities every day. We got slapped around today because of that, and because we weren’t so good in the first half.”