One’s opinion on the introduction of video replay in Major League Soccer (and soccer in general) comes down to a preference for either flow with flaws or delays for definitude. Wednesday night at MAPFRE Stadium, folks were given ample opportunity to assess their feelings on the matter. Not only were there three reviews in a ten-minute stretch before the game was even a half-hour old, the reviews covered three of the four areas that are purview to the replay process.
Given that replay only applies to a few game-altering decisions—goals, penalties, direct red cards, and mistaken identity—and is not a challenge system for, like, which team should have been awarded a throw-in at midfield, it stands to reason that replay would be a rare intrusion used only in critical junctures. In theory, anyway. Then Columbus Crew SC and the LA Galaxy churned out game-altering scenarios in such quick succession that referee Sorin Stoica and Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Hilario Grajeda surely felt like Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory conveyor belt.
In the 16th minute, Stoica issued a red card to the Galaxy’s Ashley Cole for a dangerous challenge on Crew SC newcomer Pedro Santos. The game came to a halt as Stoica went to the sideline to review the video. In the end, Stoica stood by his original call.
Five minutes later, Santos was again taken to the ground by a Galaxy foul. Stoica originally marked the foul just outside of the penalty area. Upon further review, the call was changed to a penalty kick, which was subsequently saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Jon Kempin as part his historic performance.
Five minutes after THAT, the Galaxy appeared to take a 1-0 lead on a corner kick header goal by Daniel Steres. Or maybe Joao Pedro. After further review, it was determined that Pedro indeed redirected the ball into the net from an offside position, thereby negating the fleeting lead that the Galaxy would never again achieve on the evening.
So that was one huge red card that was verified, one mistaken non-penalty corrected to a penalty, and one goal mistakenly allowed that was corrected to a non-goal. Without the benefit of video review, the 10-man Galaxy have a 1-0 lead and it’s an entirely different game than the one that ended in a 2-0 Columbus victory.
Again, it comes down to flow with flaws or delays for definitude.
“It’s a little weird, but I don’t mind it when it’s in my favor,” said Crew SC’s Justin Meram. “Obviously, on Saturday it wasn’t (a review-induced red card to Harrison Afful in Orlando), but that’s why they installed the VAR [Video Review]. The referees can’t see everything and those were clear decisions, so that’s just the way the game goes. I would like to see the ref make the correct decision and not go to VAR [Video Review] every time, but he has that confidence to go in there and review it.”
“The rhythm is strange with that VAR [Video Review] thing,” said Ola Kamara. “I think getting the calls right is important, but we will see how it turns out. In the first half, it was a lot.”
As noted by Andrew Erickson of the Columbus Dispatch, during the trial period, there was an average of one review every three games. So three in ten minutes? That’s…what’s the word I’m looking for…
“It was crazy,” said Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.
Yes, that’s it. Berhalter’s comment was about the improbable cluster of reviewable events, not a criticism of the process itself, which he favors.
“To me, that’s just why they implemented the system, so you get things right, so you get major things right,” he said. “It’s strange that it happened all in one game.”
Crew SC captain Wil Trapp acknowledged that replay impacted the pace early in the game, but found it hard to find fault with desire to ensure that such momentous calls were made accurately.
“It does slow the game down, but I think in the long run, he got the calls right,” Trapp said. “You take the time to get it right and players can’t complain about that.”
Meanwhile, in the LA Galaxy locker room, a player could complain about that.
“For me, they had to review and they still got it wrong, so it’s a waste of time,” said Cole, whose red card was affirmed via replay. “I just think it slows the game down…I thought it was embarrassing, really.”
Flow with flaws vs. delays for definitude…vs. the wasteful embarrassment decreed by Ashley Cole. Upon further review, this is not a debate that is going to end anytime soon.
Questions? Comments? During every stoppage, thought about how you wished video review was around to correct a blown game-altering call during MLS Cup 2015? Feel free to write at email@example.com or via twitter @stevesirk