Confusion reigned on the pitch at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas on Wednesday night. The Philadelphia Union’s controversial 3-1 win was fueled by a red card by referee Joseph Dickerson in the 58th minute. The decision, after a VAR review, turned the tide of a match that had more than its share of disputes.
Dickerson’s issuance of unseen fouls and corners began nearly from the opening whistle as described by an incredulous Wilmer Cabrera (Dynamo head coach) following the match.
“It was a foul, it was a call, it was a corner, and then another corner, and then another corner, invented by this gentleman.”
The most egregious call of the first half came after Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas had slotted a ball by Union keeper Andre Blake in the tenth minute of play.
Looking for the equalizer, Boreck Dockal played a through ball to Alejandro Bedoya as he slipped by the Dynamo backline. Thinking it was a definitive offside, keeper Joe Willis looked to give up on the play and the Union midfielder chipped it in. There was no VAR review on the play and that would begin the demise of Dickerson.
Following the non-offside call on Bedoya’s goal in the 33rd minute, Dickerson furthered incited the 13,000 plus in attendance and frustrated the Houston players with a foul call in stoppage that went against the Dynamo side. The problem was that no Dynamo players were involved in the play as two Union players collided against each other.
The Dynamo appeared to be picking up steam in the second half when his whistle and VAR came into play in the 58th minute.
Racing towards a cross from the endline, Tomas Martinez inadvertently stepped on the foot of Union defender Auston Trusty. Initially, Dickerson whistled for a goal kick but then VAR got involved and a no-call became a straight red card, however, no one including the fourth official on sideline knew what was going on as all of this was playing out. An animated Wilmer Cabrera and his staff were all over the fourth official.
Once again we let Cabrera speak;
“It was a strange game, and then when you get a red card, the way you get a red card, because the VAR called the referee and smiled. In fact, he called the referees and I asked the fourth official what happened? They said we don’t know. (Union MF) Alejandro Bedoya came to ask us what is going? We don’t know, they are checking for a red card. A red card against who? His captain was worried about one of the players and I thought it was for the foul against Tomas Martinez, and no, no, they said it was Tomas Martinez. I don’t know, to be honest with you, I don’t know what happened. But, it was really confusing.”
Twelve minutes later, Cory Burke was giving the Union a 2-1 lead on another play that if all things considered warranted a VAR review for a potential offside. None would be forthcoming.
The Union sealed the deal in the sixth minute of stoppage time with a penalty kick conversion to walk away with a 3-1 victory.
Pro Soccer reporter Jesus Acevedo Jr. attempted to interview Dickerson after the match as MLS policy allows however the referee refused to respond. These are questions Acevedo asked and the written answers given to him by the fourth official.
Q: On the red card, what did you see to constitute going to the VAR?
A: “VAR saw a clear and obvious error in the non-giving of a red card and recommended a review. See the details in question No. 2.”
Q: After checking with VAR, why did you decide on a straight red card as opposed to a cautionary yellow card?
A: “The red card was issued for a serious foul play for endangering the safety of the opponent.”
Q: On the (first) two Union goals, it was debatable if the player was onside. Why wasn’t VAR used to verify if the player was onside?
A: “VAR checked both goals and it was determined that there was no clear and obvious error.”
It is rather obvious that officiating crew both on and off the pitch were not watching the same game as the fans, broadcast teams, the coaching staff and Houston soccer legend Brian Ching. Twitter was ablaze.
He can go for the ball but he was late on the tackle so maybe a yellow. No intent or recklessness so definitely not a red. Inexperienced ref in my opinion https://t.co/txN1MZ7Z33— Brian Ching (@brianching) July 26, 2018
For as diplomatic as Ching tried to be at first, LAFC & current USMNT midfielder Benny Feilhaber showed no mercy.
VeryAwfulReview #NewVARacronym #HOUvPHI— Benny Feilhaber (@b_feilhaber22) July 26, 2018
Yet another came from Jason Foster
Unbelievable that anyone (even an #MLS ref) could watch this on Video Review, and give Tomás Martínez a straight red card. People said Video Review was all about getting the calls correct.....instead there are just even more shocking and unacceptable errors. #HOUvPHI #VAR #NoVAR pic.twitter.com/reb5mR10o4— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) July 26, 2018
It was not to say the least a good night for Dickerson, Major League Soccer or the Houston Dynamo leaving us to close with this tongue in cheek and kind of humorous yet very telling tweet for injured Dynamo defender AJ DeLaGarza.
Can you VAR a VAR? Asking for my team. #HOUvPHI— AJ DeLaGarza (@AJD_20) July 26, 2018