The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 21

The Definitive Angle is PRO’s analysis of the week’s Video Review use in MLS.

Week 21 overview

There were four Video Reviews during Week 21. For the first time, there was a Video Review recommended for a straight red card for serious foul play when a second yellow card (and subsequent red card) had already been shown for what the referee believed was a reckless challenge.


NYC vs SKC: Review for red card (serious foul play) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Reckless challenge – (Second) yellow card.

What Happened: A foul was committed by Roger Espinoza (SKC) on Maxime Chanot (NYC). As the two players moved towards each other to challenge for the ball, Espinoza raised his right foot and made very slight contact with the ball, but the studs on his boot then made full and forceful contact on the right knee of Chanot. This was an act which involved excessive force and endangered the safety of Chanot.

The referee initially deemed it to be a reckless act worthy of a caution, which was duly issued. This being Espinoza’s second caution of the game, he was then issued a red card and sent from the field of play.

The VAR recommended a Video Review for a direct red card for serious foul play.

The Video Review Process:

  • In fewer than 30 seconds, the VAR had looked at the play and in his mind he deemed it to be serious foul play. However, he was waiting for the referee on the field to make a decision on the misconduct as no card has been shown at this point because both players were being attended to by trainers – it is best practice for referees to wait for a player to be standing when issuing misconduct.
  • The VAR prepared the best angles while he waited for the referee’s decision.
  • The referee issued the yellow and red cards to Espinoza after 1:58.
  • After hearing the explanation of the referee’s decision, the VAR recommended a review for serious foul play.
  • The referee changed his second yellow card decision to a direct red card.
  • He demonstrated this by visually canceling the yellow card and producing a red card towards the tunnel, while also informing captain Matt Besler (SKC) of his decision.

PRO’s Decision: Even though Espinoza had been sent off, it was still correct that a Video Review took place in this case, as the showing of a yellow card for the offense was a clear and obvious error. Since he had already left the field of play, it was not necessary for Espinoza to see the red card.


DAL vs RSL: Review for penalty kick – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: Michael Barrios (DAL) had gone down in the Real Salt Lake penalty area, having cut in from the right side. Barrios had knocked the ball past defender Donald Toia (RSL), who had extended his right foot out, and there was then very slight contact between the right feet of the two players as Barrios moved his foot forward. Toia’s arm made contact with the back of Barrios as both players fell to the floor.

The VAR recommended a review for a penalty kick, however, the referee looked at the footage in the RRA and decided to retain his original no-penalty decision.

PRO’s Decision: Although this situation could have justified the award of a penalty kick if one determined that Barrios was impeded by the action of Toia. Barrios also goes to ground rather easily on feeling the upper body contact another subjective action. In the end, both the review and final decision is supported due to these considerations.


NE vs ORL: Review for penalty kick (handling) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: A shot by Gustavo Bou (NE) was blocked by Jhegson Méndez (ORL), who raised his right arm into the path of the ball. Méndez was in his own penalty area at the time and, although the ball only traveled a short distance before making contact with the arm, it went directly onto the arm which was raised up and away from the body into a position which made Méndez’s body bigger. By being in that position, the arm had taken away the space that the ball was traveling through.

On seeing the nature of the contact and the position of the arm, the VAR recommended a Video Review.

The Video Review Process:

  • While play continued the referee relayed to the VAR that he saw the arm near the body and that the ball did strike the arm.
  • Using the Mid 50 camera, the VAR had a good angle of the position of the arm.
  • The VAR recommended a review while the ball was in a neutral zone and the referee stopped play.
  • The referee looked at the footage to confirm the decision and gave the penalty 1:58 after it happened.

PRO’s Decision: This was a clear handling offense because the arm was raised up, and away from the body, into a position which made Méndez’s body bigger. This was a good use of Video Review.


RBNY vs CLB: Review for penalty kick (holding) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: An out-swinging freekick was played into the Columbus Crew penalty area by New York Red Bulls. Daniel Royer (RBNY) moved onto the dropping ball with a clear opportunity to head it goalwards from a position near to the goal area line. However, just prior to heading the ball, Royer was impeded by Luis Argudo (CLB), who used his left hand to grab the upper left arm of Royer and spin him around. This caused Royer to ultimately head the ball away from goal.

The referee looked at the footage and on doing so concurred with the VAR and awarded a penalty kick to New York Red Bulls.

The Video Review Process:

  • While the play was being checked the referee issued a caution for a reckless challenge by Luis Díaz (CLB) which happened 20 seconds after the incident in the penalty area.
  • After issuing the caution, the VAR recommended a review. This process was delayed due to the referee having to focus on the New York Red Bulls players arguing the nongiving of the penalty.
  • The referee agreed that the hold by Argudo was significant and decided it was a penalty kick
  • After the referee had left the RRA the VAR checked the footage of the reckless challenge to determine if it was a clear and obvious error or not. By protocol, the yellow card given cannot be rescinded even though that part of the game was after the incident that was reviewed.

PRO’s Decision: Although the contact on the arm was not particularly heavy, it was a deliberate action by Argudo, who had clearly looked at Royer as the ball was dropping and had no opportunity to challenge for the ball himself. Additionally, the fact the ball was dropping to Royer meant this action was significant. If this level of contact had happened when both players had equal opportunity to head the ball, or if the ball had been dropping to a different part of the penalty area away from Royer, then it is unlikely a review would have been appropriate. However, in these circumstances, the action of Argudo was impactful and unfair.

This was a good use of the Video Review system.