Monday, August 15 2022

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The Professional Referee Organization has acknowledged an error that could’ve swung Major League Soccer’s Western Conference landscape for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Decision Day saw Colorado Rapids elevate to the No. 1 spot in the West and the LA Galaxy drop out of the playoffs after being in the top seven for most of the season, and the final results happened in dramatic fashion.

[ MORE: MLS Cup Playoffs primer ]

Sporting KC fell 1-0 to Real Salt Lake on Sunday when Damir Kreilach scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to send the visitors into seventh place and the Galaxy into eighth following a 3-3 draw with the LA Galaxy.

But it could’ve been 1-0 to the hosts just five minutes earlier when RSL’s Justen Glad handled the ball in the box. The foul wasn’t spotted and VAR determined it wasn’t a clear and obvious error, one that would’ve sent KC to the spot.

From PRO:

The video assistant referee (VAR), when checking the play, saw that the ball made contact with Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad’s right hand, but concluded that the non-awarding of a penalty kick did not reach the threshold of a clear and obvious error, and therefore did not recommend a Video Review to the referee. However, the footage shows clear movement to the ball by the right hand of Glad, in a manner which can reasonably be interpreted as being consistent with a handball offense.

Sporting, of course, would’ve had to make its penalty and hold onto the lead, but a win would’ve put them level on points with Colorado, with KC holding the tiebreaker with its 18th win to the Rapids’ 17th.

And RSL would’ve still had to score, possibly twice, to overcome LA Galaxy’s 48 points. RSL did finish with 48 and beat the Galaxy by virtue of total wins.

KC will be fuming, knowing the West’s road to the MLS Cup Final would go through Children’s Mercy Park and not Colorado. The Galaxy under Greg Vanney have plenty of talent and playoff wisdom and would’ve fancied themselves to make a run at the cup.

Fine margins, even with VAR. Referees have a brutally-scrutinized job and are often treated unfairly, and referees arre kept awake by their game-changing errors just as often as players, so we say this with respect to anyone charging into a profession we wouldn’t dream of doing even as a hobby:

How’s this missed by multiple referees?

A better question: For all the belly-aching and debating we do about VAR and the flow of the game, this was a taste of our past when it comes to questionable calls. Do you prefer it to the VAR alternative?

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