ATLANTA -- It was a goal that could have been a turning point in the 2018 Eastern Conference Championship series for the New York Red Bulls.
After Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez put his team up 1-0 in the first half, his Red Bulls counterpart Bradley Wright-Phillips appeared to have equalized off a nicely worked free kick in the 53rd minute. Kaku crossed the ball into the box, and defender Aaron Long was able to use his height to knock it down for Wright-Phillips to finish with a sweeping one-timer.
But not so fast, said referee Kevin Stott and Video Assistant Referee Drew Fischer. After Video Review, the officiating crew decided that New York midfielder Alex Muyl, who was in an offside position when Wright-Phillips struck the shot, had been obstructing line of sight of goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Therefore, no goal.
Guzan was adamant that his view had been blocked.
“To be fair, when he shot it, I couldn’t see,” he said after the game. “I didn’t see the ball come off his foot, I didn’t see the ball until it was essentially past me. You look back at it and the referee, he gets it spot on because as we know, that’s obviously, he’s in an offside position and affecting the line of the goalkeeper. So fair play to the referee.”
Neither Atlanta manager "Tata" Martino nor captain Michael Parkhurst knew what the call was until after the game and had assumed Long had been offside.
“It took me by surprise, pleasantly,” Parkhurst said.
While the debate raged among fans, Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis admitted he hadn't seen a replay and didn't want to offer an immediate assessment of the call.
Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, as the score was reversed, so was the course of the match.
“That was a huge game changer for us,” said Atlanta defender Greg Garza. “After we realized that wasn’t a goal, it definitely gave us more motivation to try and [stick it to them], as we did.”
And New York felt the opposite on the pivotal moment, although they admitted a 3-0 scoreline indicated other key moments that led to the loss.
“You score a tying goal that gets called back, yeah it deflates you a little bit," said Red Bulls coach Chris Armas. “But Atlanta put a lot into it. All of their players fought hard the whole time.
“It is always a little bit of a letdown if a goal is called back, but we didn’t make enough plays on each side of the field. We let ourselves down that way. Give them credit on the night, Atlanta, and we will be up for the next one.”