Stunned disbelief is all that can describe Mitch Hildebrandt’s reaction when shown a red card tonight at Red Bull Arena. For the third straight match, the VAR (video assistant referee) was called into action and for the third straight game, the call heavily influenced the result of the game in the Baby Bulls’ favor. Even VAR supporters like myself are finding it hard to accept the statistics involved here.
In the 9th minute, New York slotted a ball behind the FCC defense and two Bulls charged Hildebrandt. Mitch made the first stop but the second player, Allen, tried to get to the rebound and get a shot off. Hildebrandt scrambled towards the ball and Nicholson charged in and Allen went down in the box. The center pointed to the spot, but the AR raised his flag saying that Allen was offside. The VAR signaled that it wanted to give input and the center conferred verbally with the VAR (but never reviewed the video). After the conference, the center waived down the offside flag, indicated the PK call would stand and then added on a red card for Mitch.
Charlie Hatch captured the event via Twitter (below), though you can also go back to watch the live stream. The angles are tough, but it certainly seemed like Allen got ahead of the ball and that the AR was likely correct about the offside call. It does appear that Mitch made some contact with Allen when fumbling after the ball but it’s hard to tell how significant that was. What is very clear is that the ball was loose in front of goal and both Allen and Hildebrandt were scrambling to get it.
If the VAR overruled the offside call, and the center didn’t even bother to look, that seems like an issue. If the VAR indicated to the center that there was a DOGSO (denial of a goal scoring opportunity), I would like the center to want to see that as well before making a game changing decision in the first 10 minutes of a game. It is also a real shame that USL is still using the old rules related to “double jeopardy.” Those rules were considered too harsh and changed this summer. You can read about it from SB Nation HERE. The new rules certainly would have prevented the red card.
Maybe more in question to me is the lack of transparency. The goal of the VAR is to bring back confidence in the officiating. It seems like that by not indicating what is being seen, we are likely making it even more questionable. The video feed and camera angles are not good and there is an indication that the VAR is working with those same feeds. If so, the VAR isn’t in a good position to see offside, and they would be hard pressed to really determine what happened during the scrum in the box.
Here's the play. Hard to tell, but looks like Mitch lightly tapped him and Nicholson then came pic.twitter.com/mXr13PdxYZ
— Charlie Hatch (@charliehatch_) August 28, 2016
After a start like this, it’s hard to really describe the game.
Cincinnati started the game with it’s original 4-3-3 formation.
Polak – Nicholson – Berry – Luke
Bone – Stevenson – Walker
McLaughlin – Okoli- Wiedeman
Once Mitch was ejected from the pitch, Coach Harkes removed Stevenson to make room for Dallas Jaye to tend to goal. The team seemed to bunker down and defend for most of the rest of the game. They moved to what seemed like a 4-4-1 formation. “Park the bus” and hope something over the top to Okoli could be turned into something.
It was a tough match to watch. New York had 21 shots to Cincinnati’s 3. They had 11 corners to FCC’s 3. Cincinnati absorbed pressure over and over. They gave up most of the field and didn’t even pressure until New York was 30 yards out. Their best opportunity came in the 63rd minute when Wiedeman served in a brilliant cross that almost made contact with a sliding Okoli.
Coach Harkes made use of all 5 of his subs. Delbridge came in for Nicholson in the 53rd minute. McMahon came in for McLaughlin in the 57th minute, pushing Luke out of right back and up to left wing. In the 85th minute, Walker stepped out and was replaced by Tomaselli. In the 87th minute, Spencer came on for Luke.
Spencer looked like he’d breathe a little life into the Cincinnati offense. But in stoppage time, the coffin was nailed shut when Okoli cleared the ball out of the box and the Bull with the ball went down. The center called for another PK. Okoli was livid and received a yellow for dissent as he insisted he never made contact with the player. The VAR was silent. Watching the replay over and over, it is hard to see how a penalty was awarded. Jaye, in the first official match of his career, was tested from the spot again. He guessed right but was unable to make the stop. With minutes left, a man down and a 2 goal deficit, there wasn’t much that FCC could do.
- Cincinnati has never had a red card in a previous match. Despite this, they played a man down for 80+ minutes against the #1 team in the league and didn’t crumble.
- Without help from the VAR or lack of help from the VAR, it seems like this was a 0-0 game. If these two teams would meet in the playoffs Cincinnati should not feel like they were beaten today.
- McMahon, unfortunately, picked up a yellow and that means he is not available for Charlotte along with Mitch who received the red.
- Dallas Jaye kept his back line organized, made some key saves, and did a great job stepping into Mitch’s shoes.
- Luke has been starting lately in place of McMahon and should be fine to take that position again on Wednesday.
– Header photo from USL live stream