Josef Martinez scored a hat trick in Saturday's 4-1 win by Atlanta United FC against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But the decisive play of the match didn't have much to do with the Venezuelan striker.
Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston was sent off in the 13th minute, after Video Review for a foul on Atlanta defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in Vancouver's box on a free kick. Replays showed contact between the players, but opinions differed regarding the justice of the red card on the Costa Rican.
The decision by referee Ismail Elfath to send off Waston left Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson perplexed.
"Have I looked at it? Yes. Do I disagree with it? Yes, 100 percent. It's never been a sending off. He's not looked for him, he doesn't know [Gonzalez Pirez] is there, [Gonzalez Pirez has] blocked him, and because [Waston is] slightly bigger [Gonzalez Pirez has] rolled over," Robinson told TSN Radio 1040 Vancouver after the match.
The Vancouver manager said that Gonzalez Pirez has a reputation around the league for "setting picks" to block opponents' progress, and that is what he did to draw the penalty, illegally.
"It was an outrageous decision and a wrong decision," Robinson said. "But if I come out and say it, clearly it's 'We've been beaten today, it's sour grapes.' Not at all. It's a shocking decision."
From there, Martinez scored his first goal on the subsequent penalty following Waston's ejection, but Vancouver held firm defensively until just before the hour mark. While Erik Hurtado came off the bench and scored a late consolation goal, an own goal from Aaron Maund and two more goals for Martinez led to the lopsided scoreline in Atlanta's favor.
Robinson was asked if he thought the match-up between the high-scoring Five Stripes and then-undefeated Whitecaps was setting up to be a marquee game.
"I think it would have been [a great game] if 11 men had stayed on the field, because we were full of confidence going into this game," he said. "We slightly adjusted our tactics, they had come off a very good home result..."
"It's frustrating, it makes my blood boil. But if you're a random fan, the neutral watching the game must think 'What is going on?' I still can't make heads nor tails of it. And that's what disappointed me out of it, because the game was spoiled."