Atlanta United’s Martino again critical of VAR, MLS refs

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino didn’t seem to ready to forgive the Professional Referee Organization after general manager Howard Webb said on Wednesday that the crew working Sunday’s game against Seattle missed a penalty call that may have helped the Five Stripes.

“If he didn’t see the kick of de Jong, then he’s not going to see the penalty on (Chris) McCann,” Martino said of Webb. The reference was to Webb refereeing the 2010 World Cup final when Holland’s Nigel de Jong kicked Spain’s Xabi Alonso in the chest. Webb didn’t give de Jong a red card, but later said he regrets that decision.

Webb was neither on the field nor in the replay booth during Sunday’s game against the Sounders at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so Martino’s comment may not be considered fair.

But Martino hasn’t held back in his criticism of VAR and the replay system since it was instituted in Aug. 2017. He also hasn’t been shy about judging the on-field refs.

He said in Oct. 2017 that he wishes the league would get rid of VAR.

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He dropped one more barb on Thursday: “The VAR is in place so that they don’t make mistakes. If the VAR makes mistakes, then we will put another VAR, so we will have one on this side and one on that side.”

Neither Martino nor Atlanta United’s players have been fined by the league for any of their comments about officiating in the past 1½ seasons. And there have been some pointed comments. Real Salt Lake manager Mike Petke was fined $10,000 and suspended an additional game after he criticized the officiating in last week’s loss at Minnesota. He was already going to be suspended for one game.

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