One of my biggest gripes with the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals was the officiating. Was Kevin Stott consistent in his calls? Sure. But consistency doesn’t equate to quality. For example, Lil’ Pump’s music is very much consistently wack.
The most egregious call in New York City FC’s home matchup against Atlanta United was, in my opinion, Stott’s ruling of a high boot on a play that ultimately would have resulted in a goal and given NYCFC much better odds going into Mercedes-Benz Stadium this upcoming weekend.
Here’s the play in question:
With several players still in advanced positions following a corner, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi plays in a cross that is deflected by Atlanta’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. The sharp change of trajectory sends the ball high and towards the top of the box where David Villa lies in wait. Villa, needing to back track a bit for the ball, edges his way into the ball’s path and lines up for a bicycle kick. Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, in a last ditch effort to prevent El Guaje from ending up SportsCenter’s Top 10, throws himself into mix and makes contact with Villa. This sends the ball wayward and right to the feet of midfielder Yangel Herrera, being kept onside by Franco Escobar, who sends the ball past Brad Guzan and into the net for the equalizing goal.
Right as Herrera makes contact with the ball, however, Stott blows his whistle and points his arm towards Atlanta’s attacking third; the call is a foul on Villa and the goal is disallowed.
I’m sure you could all imagine my reaction to this. For those of you who do not read the site consistently, “uncontrollable rage” would be an acceptable assessment.
I cannot sugarcoat this: the call is wrong. Egregiously wrong.
Not only does Martinez slam into Villa — something that could be considered a foul in the 18-yard box and could’ve resulted in the Blues being rewarded a penalty shot — Villa never makes any contact with him on the play. As a matter of fact, despite the forceful impact, Villa’s foot still meets the ball and never hits Martinez, despite the latter’s subsequent writhing in pain.
Long story short: NYCFC were screwed out of a goal that would’ve given them a much better chance at success on Sunday in Atlanta.
These tweets pretty much sum it all up:
Never knew playing defense was throwing yourself on people— Owen Williams (@Owenwillz_) November 5, 2018
This is such an embarrassing call. Horrible night for the referee. Horrible.— Brian C. Smith (@bcsmith23) November 5, 2018
So he runs into a Villa and gets the foul call— Rino Binetti (@Shimboy108) November 5, 2018
But that wasn’t the end of it. Stott practically let Gonzalez Pirez get away with murder at the end of the game. Look at this play!
First, LGP throws his hand into Anton Tinnerholm’s head/neck area. Then, the center back proceeds to lift his left elbow into the face of Maxime Chanot. All on one play. Not only were these two infractions not given a yellow or red card, they weren’t even called!
I’m not making excuses for City’s poor play in the first half. They definitely didn’t do themselves any favors by constantly turning the ball over and failing to mount significant attacks. But it’s plays like this where you need the man in charge to make the right calls and not cost you results. Just because NYCFC didn’t play their best game doesn’t excuse poor officiating, something fans of MLS clubs have become far too accustomed to seeing.
Oh well, at least we don’t have to put up with Mark Geiger this series. Wait, nevermind...