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Did NYCFC have a case for a late penalty against Toronto?

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Castellanos and Mavinga’s clash at the death of NYCFC and Toronto’s 1-1 draw is maing headlines. Were City right to disagree with the ultimate decision?

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

First off, let me start this article by acknowledging that New York City FC did not play a good game against Toronto FC last night. A makeshift backline and shaky build-up play were constantly exploited by the Reds. And had it not been for a heroic penalty save by Sean Johnson and Toronto’s abysmal finishing, it’s very likely that NYCFC would been defeated last night in Yankee Stadium.

Let’s call it fortunate that the Blues walked away with a point.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s address the play that City fans have been talking about ad nauseam since last night — the incident between Toronto’s Chris Mavinga and Taty Castellanos.

At the death of second half stoppage time, Castellanos is dealt a long ball. He runs after it, but is cut off by both Mavinga and Omar Gonzalez. As he attempts to chase down the ball in the box, Mavinga raises his arm and strikes Castellanos in the face.

Here’s the play in full. (For those of you viewing this article through Google AMP, it’s cut out)

Almost immediately, referee Chris Penso blows his whistle. But the call hasn’t gone for Taty getting blasted in the box — Penso has ruled that Taty had pulled on Mavinga’s jersey and points in the opposite direction for a Toronto free kick.

The crowd predictably goes ballistic as NYCFC players crowd Penso, while Domé Torrent throws his arms in anger on the sideline. Taty gets up from off the pitch to show Penso his bleeding nose.

The game comes to a complete halt and all that can be heard — as the YES Network shows a slew of replays — is the crowd chanting for VAR.

Penso isn’t having it. He books Mavinga without consulting with VAR and the game is called shortly after that.

I’ve said it a thousand times before — I am an unashamed homer/NYCFC fan and that can be blinding from time to time. But, in my opinion, Penso and his crew got this call all wrong.

For those who don’t watch football too often, jersey tugging is a common occurrence especially in close plays like this. And it is rarely called a foul unless it is blatant and/or severely disrupts the play.

From every angle I’ve seen, Taty’s tug does nothing to offset Mavinga’s momentum in pursuit of the ball. And if I’m on the field, I am calling that a red card on Mavinga and a penalty kick for NYCFC.

Even if the tug is significant to warrant a foul, there is no reason why Mavinga wasn’t given a red card for violent/reckless conduct. Post-game reports indicate that the referees didn’t view Mavinga’s hand-to-face foul as a red card offense simply because they think there wasn’t any intent from Mavinga to strike Castellanos.

I’m sorry, but that’s some bullshit reasoning. If we’re going by that criteria, then Ben Sweat shouldn’t have been charged with a handball in the box earlier in the game simply because he didn’t mean to strike the ball with his hand.

Even if you don’t mean to do something, it doesn’t make what you did any less irresponsible. Mavinga raised his arm violently and struck Castellanos in the face, drawing blood in the process. It should’ve been a red card for violent conduct. Period.

Feel free to disagree with me on this.