The Houston Dynamo lost on Saturday. They conceded two goals late in the game, a game they should have been able to see out for at least one point. The Dynamo also could have, should have, might have been up 2-0 from a Memo Rodriguez free kick. Did the ball cross the line after it caromed off the cross bar? We can’t really be sure, and that is a huge problem.
Major League Soccer has for years strived to be among the “best leagues in the world”. What does this mean? I’m not sure I can tell you that. What I would tell you is, one thing it should mean is having the best technology and TV presentation possible. MLS has neither of these and it might have cost the Dynamo on Saturday.
First let’s talk about the technology. The English Premier League uses goal-line technology. The ball has an embedded sensor and when it completely crosses the line the referee gets a buzz on their watch. The ball either completely crosses the line or it doesn’t, there is no grey area. Now, to be fair to MLS, they do have some hang-ups to getting the goal-line technology in. First, it’s very expensive to get it set up and in use at every stadium. MLS also has eight more teams than the EPL. Secondly, all MLS teams still don’t play in their own home venue. Heck, New York City FC just played at their fifth “home” stadium yesterday.
So, goal-line technology, while very nice, does not seem to be doable in Major League Soccer. That’s a bummer but it is what it is. What is not okay however brings me to the second point, the MLS national broadcast partners. Currently, ESPN, Fox, and Univision show games nationally in the United States. Saturday’s Dynamo-FC Dallas game was on Univision. The best angle their broadcast had of the Memo freekick was this. This is a paused image, zoomed in closer.
The fact that this is the best view we got from a national TV broadcast by one of the league’s partners is unacceptable. There is no other way to put it. VAR was never even in use because there were no camera angles to show where the ball was. Toyota Stadium in Frisco is a soccer-specific stadium. There are no excuses for why a national broadcast should not have multiple camera angles on each goal.
To make matters worse, ESPN, who also televises MLS games nationally, has their sponsored goal post cam where a camera is embedded IN the goal post. This camera can see the goal line and any plays right on the line up close. So, if the Dynamo were playing on ESPN instead, we would have probably had a great look at where that free kick landed after coming down off the crossbar. This is also unacceptable. Depending on what channel your game is on should have no impact on anything happening on the field. The league should hold all its TV partners to the same standard, they all should be able to provide the same video capabilities for a league that uses VAR. It is really that simple. The fact that it can be different is just mind boggling.
The Dynamo didn’t lose because of officiating or lack of video review. I’m never going to be one to take that stance. They lost because they sat back and allowed Dallas to score twice late. What I am going to say however is, MLS must do better. It must do so much better if it wants to achieve its goal of being a “top league in the world”.