Play of the Week 22: First week of Video Review

This has been a historical weekend, the first to use Video Review in MLS, and this week’s Play of the Week naturally features the impact that Video Review had in its inaugural weekend.

Video Review will only be used for clear errors or serious missed incidents in game-changing situations, which are:

  • Goals
  • Penalty decisions
  • Red card incidents
  • Mistaken identity

In the latest Play of the Week, we are featuring the two plays that were changed following Video Review.

The first one was on Saturday, and comes from the game between Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas. At a Dallas attack, Union keeper John McCarthy and Dallas forward Cristian Colman challenge for the ball in a 50/50 situation, and the ball falls for Colman’s teammate, Maxi Urruti.

McCarthy makes a vain attempt to close him down but is clearly injured, and Urruti slots the ball into the goal. At this point referee Ricardo Salazar is managing the Union players, explaining that the play is being checked. He then receives information from the VAR (Video Assistant Referee), Hilario Grajeda, who recommends the referee to have a review.

Salazar then gives the approved signal that the incident is under review and proceeds to go to the RRA (Referee Review Area) to watch the incident. Following his review, he again follows the official protocol by repeating the approved signal and disallows the goal.

If you look at the reaction of Union’s Alejandro Bedoya, he initially believes that Salazar awards the goal and turns away disappointed until the referee gives the “no goal” signal; perhaps referees should consider giving the “disallowed” signal first to avoid confusion.

When you look at the replay you will see that during his challenge for the ball, Colman actually kicks McCarthy which was very difficult for Salazar to detect in real time. This play is exactly what Video Review is for, to help referees make the correct decision in serious missed game-changing incidents. As this one was the first in MLS history, it is a great example of the benefits of Video Review.

Sunday’s play is from Portland Timbers versus LA Galaxy and involves another disallowed goal. Following a goal ‘scored’ by Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes, referee Drew Fischer holds up the taking of the restart while he receives information from VAR, Dave Gantar. Fischer knows he cannot allow the game to restart as the goal cannot then be reviewed. Eventually he gives the official review signal and proceeds to the RRA. Following his review, he re-enters the field, follows protocol by repeating the signal and then the “disallow” signal, before brandishing a yellow card to Zardes.

When you look at the replay, it is not initially clear why the goal was disallowed and if you listen to commentators, Taylor Twellman and Adrian Healy, it takes them a long time until they identify that the infringement was deliberate handball by Zardes. This one would have been virtually impossible for the referee or any of his crew to see in real time and again this is exactly what Video Review is for.

In summary, judging by these two incidents, Video Review in the MLS has got off to a great start. We have seen the result of many hours of training that our referees have undertaken, proving invaluable with these two goals being correctly disallowed.

The infringements would not have been detected without Video Review and added virtually no disruption to either game. This is exactly what IFAB (International Football Association Board) wanted with their edict – “minimum interference for maximum benefit”.

And another reminder – Video Review will only be used for clear errors or serious missed incidents in game-changing situations. An encouraging start!