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Whoopsies! Columbus game-winning penalty a mistake, says PRO Video Review

VAR convinces ref to overturn his call, incorrectly give a penalty to Columbus Crew in game against New York City FC on June 14.

The play in question | Screenshot courtesy PRO

It turns out that the controversial penalty awarded to Columbus Crew when they played New York City FC on June 14 shouldn't have been awarded.

At least that's the official opinion of the Professional Referee Organization, better known as PRO. In their latest edition of Inside Video Review (MLS #20), which was released earlier today, they analyze a play in which New York City's Hannes Wolf pushes Columbus Crew's Mohamed Farsi as they jockey for position in the mouth of the goal. Referee Alexis Da Silva allowed the game to continue, but VAR referee Sorin Stoica asked for a delay and made the argument that a penalty should be awarded. PRO now says that was a mistake. According to Greg Barkey, the PRO manager of video review, "The original no-penalty call is not a clear error, for which the VAR shouldn't have intervened."

But VAR did intervene. The penalty was awarded, and was converted Cucho Hernandez. It turned out to be the game-winner for Columbus.

While the result can't be overturned, the Inside Video Review clip is worth watching in its entirety.

It begins with Stoica speaking clearly into the microphone, asking for different angles of the play. It unfolds in real time, as Stoica asks for a delay and narrates what he sees in detail.

Remarkably, Stoica is intent on making a case to da Silva. He isn't merely drawing the referee's attention to the play, he's certain he sees a foul and advocating for a penalty.

Early on in the clip, Da Silva can be heard saying it was "light contact." But Stoica pushes past what the referee says to build a case.

"I just see him going too easy forward," Da Silva.

"OK, it's your decision, but this, it's a push in the back, there is no option from the defender to play the ball," Stoica says.

"Do I have a misconduct?" Da Silva asks.

"I don't see a misconduct," Stoica answers.

But in the end, Da Silva agrees with Stocia and awards the penalty.

Barkey, the PRO manager of video review, explains in the video that while there was certainly a push by Wolf, there was also "some embellishment of the contact" by Farsi. Da Silva was right when he said the Columbus player was "going too easy," which made the original call correct.

We now see that three mistakes were made.

One, it's unclear if it was a foul in the first place. While Stocia was certain he saw a foul, Barkey states that "where some would see a pushing foul worthy of a penalty, others would find the challenge not forceful and exaggerated by Farsi."

Two, Stoica didn't accept Da Silva's authority as the head referee of the game. Da Silva asserted at least twice that Farsi went down too easy, but Stoica didn't acknowledge those observations. He insisted it was a foul, and even became a little passive-aggressive. When Stocia said "OK, it's your decision, but this, it's a push in the back," he really said, "OK, you're the boss even if you're wrong."

Finally, Da Silva failed to assert his authority over the game. He was the head referee, not Stoica, but he allowed himself to be swayed by the VAR team. As we noted in the game recap, Da Silva officiated just eight MLS games in his entire career before this game, and maybe his inexperience came into play as he allowed Stoica's arguments to override what he saw on the field.

A more confident referee would have taken VAR's suggestions into consideration, and allowed the game to continue.

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