Atlanta United’s Martino critical of MLS refs

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino criticized MLS referees on Sunday following his team’s 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Park.

“This is the first time I’ve said anything about the refs and I’ve been here for 20-something games now,” he said through a translator.

Martino was unhappy about what he implied was a simulated dive by Sporting KC’s Latief Blessing in the first half, as well as a penalty that went against his team in the second half.

Blessing went down in the first half following a tackle by Carlos Carmona, who had received a yellow card earlier in the game. Blessing left the field and then sprinted back on, running faster than he had at any point in the game, according to Martino.

“I think sometimes you have to punish simulation,” he said. “The hardest thing is when it’s not consistent: When there’s a yellow card for one play that you think is a yellow and then on a similar play they don’t call it. Just consistency.”

There were several controversial plays during Sunday’s game, including a handball in the penalty box that wasn’t called against Atlanta United in the first half, and a penalty against Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in the second half in the penalty box that resulted in Sporting KC’s opening goal on a penalty kick by Benny Feilhaber in the 59th minute

“It wasn’t a penalty,” Martino said.

This weekend was the debut of VAR, which referee Chris Penso didn't use on either play. Martino didn't answer when asked if he was surprised Penso didn't review either play. Martino said the coaches were told not to mime the TV symbol that signifies a review, so he didn't.

Immediately after the game, Martino and Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes got into what looked like an argument. Martino said what they discussed will stay on the field. Asked again what they discussed, Martino said, “I said Kansas City was a really good team and Atlanta was a really good team.”