There are times when I feel like an ignorant homer when it comes to my die-hard, if not borderline unhealthy fandom of New York City FC. Love isn’t only blind, it can make you blind sometimes.
When Ebenezer Ofori was sent off in the 73rd minute of NYCFC’s miraculous 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, I immediately jumped from my chair and began yelling an assortment of obscenities louder than any other time in my life that I can recall. I was dumbfounded as to how referee Ted Unkel and VAR Mark Geiger wouldn’t see it the way I saw it.
But, as previously stated, covering this team isn’t only my job, it’s my passion. Therefore, I began deliberating whether or not I was being objective or just an “ignorant homer” when I posted this on HRB’s Twitter page immediately following the game.
FT: A 9-man NYCFC survive both the Red Bulls AND the referees by pulling out a 1-1 draw. That should feel like a win for any fan. @MLS , Dome Torrent can't say it, but we can: your officiating sucks.— Hudson River Blue (@hudsonriverblue) August 23, 2018
#NYCvNY #NYCFC #HudsonRiverDerby #MLS
As someone who is technically a “journalist”, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that maybe I was in the wrong for not taking the high ground and just posting the result with a few light-hearted, guarded anecdotes. Ashamed that my passion as a fan might have compromised my obligation as a professional to be objective and call it like it is, even if it isn’t to my particular liking.
But after this “crisis”, I began rewatching the play itself. I watched it in slow-motion, I watched it in real time. I rewatched the entire game on Fox Sports GO and studied the run of play leading to the transgression in question. I did everything I possibly could have to make sure that once I was done, my final take would be fair and accurate.
And sure enough, after careful study and consultation, I’m willing to say that my feelings on the offence are no different than they were when I initially saw the play live on television. Thus, I will not apologize to anyone who took offence to my tweet after the game or felt it was unnecessary. Maybe I could’ve said it better, but that doesn’t change the fact that I stand by the principle.
As a journalist, my job is to be objective. And part of being objective is calling bullshit when you see it.
But enough about my inner-struggle. Let’s actually examine the play.
Here’s the play in slow motion:
#NYCFC are now down to 9 men! After advisement from Video Review, referee Ted Unkel gave a straight red card to Ebenezer Ofori.#NYCvRBNY #RBNY #HudsonRiverDerby #NYDerby #MLS pic.twitter.com/oZ867cLolv— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) August 23, 2018
NYRB’s Andreas Ivan lobs the ball in Bradley Wright-Phillips’ direction. The English striker attempts to make a play on the ball, but his touch fails him. As a result, he decelerates without knowing that Ofori is right behind him. Ofori, oblivious to BWP and looking at the ball, inadvertently steps on his opponent’s Achilles as they both go to the ground and NYCFC spring a counterattack.
Now, when you break that all down, it seems bad. But mind you, everything I just stated there happened in pretty much less than a second.
If I could take footage from the entire game and upload it here just to show you what the play looked like in real-time, I would. Unfortunately due to copyright issues, I can’t do that. So here’s the closest clip I could find that resembles a real-time replay.
RED CARD!! @NYCFC loses another man as Ebenezer Ofori gets his marching orders for this challenge, harsh dismissal? #NYDerby #MLS Watch LIVE on beIN 1 https://t.co/DBeibTdVXd pic.twitter.com/lczJWyDMf5— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_AUS) August 23, 2018
Because of the ball’s sharp change in trajectory and BWP’s sudden change of speed, Ofori has little to no time to take evasive action. The Ghanaian’s accidental contact isn’t even the result of a mistimed challenge or, worse, a kick-out. It is two players that get tangled up in the run of play following a quick succession of unfortunate circumstances.
For Unkel to give Ofori his marching orders for something like that when NYCFC are already down a man is just way too harsh in my opinion. Is it worth a yellow and a stern warning that any further shenanigans will give him the boot? Yes, absolutely. But a red card just seems like an extreme punishment for a player doing nothing except being in the right place at the wrong time.
Let me put it this way: if you want to be a hard-ass and give the ban hammer to anyone who even inches close to the line of no return, then this Kemar Lawrence throat-punch against Anton Tinnerholm should have absolutely, 100% seen red.
Still not convinced it was a “throat punch?” Here you go. You’re welcome.