It was a difficult day for Toronto FC that not only saw them lose 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls, but also lose Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals as they still advanced 2-2 on aggregate. The rainy weather may have set the tone for the sloppy affair as both teams and specially the refs would like to quickly forget this game ever happened. Having said that though, it is exactly the kind of game that Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch had hoped and planned for as he kept using the word “chaotic” to the media in describing how his team needed to play to have any chance in this series.
It was a good strategy for the visitors as they did walk away with a 1-0 victory and came up just short of a second that would have seen them advance. They were able to press and bully the Reds all over the field taking TFC off of its own game plan. Conversely it wasn’t just a bad day for TFC, it was really a bad day for Major League Soccer. For a league that still struggles for any kind of worldwide respect, it is officiating like this that sets the league back decades. The poor officiating completely took any skill out of the equation and allowed thuggery to prevail.
It wasn’t just the number of mistakes that were made, including the quick goal that Victor Vazquez scored that was called back, it was the sheer magnitude of them. The referee did apologize to coach Vanney after the game for making that mistake and said the goal should have counted. If NYRB had scored a second goal and had they advanced rather than TFC, not only would their be egg all over the face of MLS but the embarrassment would be so complete there would be bacon, hashbrowns and a side of toast with it as well. Sadly, that wasn’t the only incident as there was a number of non-calls that escalated the tensions on both sides and of course there was also the offside goal that most likely was not offside. Apparently, there was no camera angle that had a good view of it. Thanks Video Assisted Referee… for nothing. I am not sure who is responsible for the video feed but a professional playoff game cannot take place without the appropriate equipment. These games are far too important.
The officiating was not fully responsible for the debacle of this game. As previously mentioned, Marsch wanted a chaotic game and his players sucked Toronto FC into that kind of matchup. It is easy to say that TFC should have controlled their emotions better and quite frankly, they should have. But if you have ever played competitive sports, if you have ever been poked and punched and body checked and tripped and knocked down consistently without any form of punishment from the referee, then you easily understand why emotions are so hard to control. At some point, enough is enough. So yes Altidore, Giovinco and Bradley need to be better at how they argue with the ref, no argument there, but as the leaders of this club, they are the ones that need to be having these necessary “discussions” with the officials. It has always been the only way to inform the refs that they were being taken advantage of. At the end of it all though, it still comes down to the referee making the right decisions and not impacting the game.
The fact that the referee did lose control not only helped NYRB come close to winning the series, but now they have now given the Columbus Crew a very nice advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals. As it stands right now both Giovinco and Altidore look to be suspended for the game in Columbus. We all know how important away goals are and this referee just ejected 41.9% of TFC’s scoring this year from that match. Inexcusable.
I do believe Seba deserved one of his two yellows (the one for time wasting) but the referee should have gotten off his high horse for the second one. It will also be interesting to see what comes up with Altidore’s halftime incident. It appears that the incident started when Sacha Kljestan went into what is clearly TFC area and grabbed Jozy by the neck. That “chaotic” exchange on the way to the locker room led to both players being ejected from the game. Warning: There is some foul language in the following video.
The league is allowed to review red cards (not yellows) and could quite possibly rescind it. Considering the way the officiating has been in the MLS, I am not holding my breath for the right decision to be made. MLS will try to save face and by doing so, will once again show this to be a Mickey Mouse soccer league.
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