Atlanta United players not worried about replacement refs

With MLS starting its season Wednesday and also on the verge of using replacement referees after it chose to lock out those it typically uses, Atlanta United player Dax McCarty said the best-case scenario is that no one notices.

“Hopefully, they come in and have confidence to call the game like they would any other game, but we know how it is, sometimes mistakes will be made,” he said. “And as players, we just have to accept them and move on.”

The league, through the Professional Referee Organization and the Professional Soccer Referees Association, were engaged in negotiations since Oct. 23 on a new collective bargaining agreement. PSRA announced Saturday that it had rejected the league’s latest offer. The league responded a few hours later by saying it was locking out the referees. PRO said it would use “qualified non-bargaining unit officials” to referee the matches. The two sides still are negotiating.

The season is scheduled to start Wednesday, with Miami hosting Real Salt Lake. Atlanta United’s season is scheduled to start Saturday at Columbus.

McCarty said hoped that the calls were consistent and that he wasn’t worried about player safety on the field in games called by less-experienced officials.

“I think even the young referees that have come into MLS and replace some of the older, more experienced ones, they’ve, they’ve done a pretty good job,” he said. “So on a base level, I think it’s actually the opposite, you could probably you might see actually an overcorrection, wanting the refs to come in and make sure that player safety is at the forefront of their mind. It’s hard to know what to expect. It’s going to be a little bit unpredictable.”

Other Atlanta United players said that whoever is officiating isn’t their concern.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Saba Lobjanidze said of the replacement officials. “My job is to play football. So I’m focused on myself and on my team.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 at Columbus, 2 p.m.

March 9 vs. New England, 7:30 p.m.

March 17 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

March 23 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

March 31 vs. Chicago, 3:30 p.m., FOX

April 6 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

April 14 vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., FOX

April 20 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.