Crew manager Robert Warzycha refuses to believe there was something sinister at play when a Columbus goal was disallowed against Santos in the teams' CONCACAF Champions League encounter in Mexico on Tuesday.
Instead, he chalks it up to a simple referee mistake.
Warzycha told ExtraTime Radio on Thursday afternoon that Columbus forward Emilio Renteria was given referee clearance to enter the match in the 22nd minute without a number on his jersey. The Venezuelan international then proceeded to collect a pass and serve in the cross that Andy Iro headed home for what looked like a shocking 1-0 lead.
As most MLS fans know by now, Iro's goal was eventually waved off following the play, leaving the Crew to wonder what happened on the way to a 1-0 loss that kept MLS winless in Mexico in 22 meaningful matches all-time.
Warzycha says that he was told by his Spanish-speaking assistant Ricardo Iribarren that the fourth official and referee disallowed the goal because Rentería did not have a number on his jersey.
“It is clear that the official waived twice at Rentería to enter the field and then the fourth official let him go,” Warzycha said. “If [Rentería] wasn’t ready to play, why does [the referee] let him on the field? Why doesn’t the referee blow the whistle when Rentería touches the ball?
“Mistakes happen. We saw it in the World Cup. We see it in MLS. We have to deal with it and move on.”
Despite what Warzycha was told by Iribarren, the official postgame referee report cites the fact that Rentería entered the field without permission. In fact, the forward hesitated upon initially entering the field, seemingly unclear about whether he was allowed back on.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know why he turned and then asked again,” Warzycha said of Rentería. “You see him turn and he walked toward the bench again. But then he had permission from the fourth official to continue.”
The Crew have lodged an official protest with CONCACAF. Although they realize that the protest will not get the goal back, they want a lesson to be learned by referees.
Warzycha also said he doesn't believe that there is a grudge toward MLS teams, despite growing outcry that CCL matches have traditionally tilted towards Mexican and Central American teams in the past.
“I don’t think it’s anything against US teams,” he said. “But obviously you don’t want to be punished like this. It’s tough to play against Mexican teams. You have to play your best game to be able to win. And when the referees make a mistake, it makes it tougher. The last thing we want is for the referee to make a mistake like this.”