Philadelphia: Atlanta United’s fans influenced referee

Atlanta United fans support their team against Philadelphia Union during the first half in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton/


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Atlanta United fans support their team against Philadelphia Union during the first half in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/



Atlanta United's raucous supporters were partially responsible for the strange sequence of events that decided the team's 3-1 win against Philadelphia, Union manager Jim Curtin said on Saturday.

As part of mulit-bullet point warning to his players before the game that included Atlanta United’s recent history of calls going against them, Curtin said he told his players: “I warned them it would be us versus the crowd and some difficult decisions,” he said. “Don’t expect decisions to go our way.”

They didn’t. However, Philadelphia’s players brought most of it on themselves.

In the 19th minute, Miguel Almiron split the Union’s back line with a pass that Josef Martinez ran onto. As he was trying to set up a shot, the ball got stuck between his feet. Martinez tried to stop so that he could get the ball into a better spot. Philadelphia’s Austen Trusty swung his leg and caught Martinez on both heels, causing him to fall.

Referee Sorin Stoica signaled penalty. Curtin wasn’t sure it was a penalty, but was sure that Stoica was helped.

“I think they influenced the referee,” Curtin said of the crowd. “I think that everything they have built here, and I mean this as a compliment, is impressive and it does sway human beings. There is quality on the field with their players. The atmosphere they create here, maybe made some rash decisions to be made. Sometimes it’s best to step back and assess the situation and maybe make the right call and slow down a little bit.”

Stoica didn’t review the penalty on replay.

Things then went sideways. Quickly.

With the ball on the spot and Martinez considering what he was going to do, Philadelphia’s Alejandro Bedoya, who had received a yellow card a few minutes earlier after dragging down Darlington Nagbe, put a foot into the penalty box. Curtin said he was adjusting his sock. It could also be considered a delaying tactic to disrupt Martinez.

Stoica gave him a second yellow.

Teammate Haris Medunjanin went ballistic. He began screaming at Stoica, which quickly resulted in two yellow cards and an explusion. Spit appeared to fly out of his mouth toward Stoica, but that may have been a result of the effort Medunjanin was putting into his protests. He ran over the kicked the ball off the penalty spot.

“I think we controlled the game in the first 20 minutes,” Medunjanin said. “We dominated. Then, the ref decided to give them the PK for no reason at all. Everyone saw that it was not a penalty. We are in this stadium with this crowd and you get scared then whistle for the home team. That is what happened today. We knew that coming here with the four wins in a row that they are a tough team to beat, and to rob us like this. ...

“I think everybody gets criticized. The players get criticized when they don’t play well. The coaches are criticized when they don’t win. The referees should be criticized.”

Medunjanin said that Stoica had forgotten that he had already given Bedoya one yellow card. He didn’t say how he knew that, but Curtin repeated the claim, crediting it to Atlanta United’s players.

Philadelphia had to play the remainder of the game down two men, nine on 11.

“I think they were upset about the call – the penalty – but when the ref goes to give (Bedoya his second yellow, I think they feel that he doesn’t understand the situation and he’s giving him a yellow in a situation where that early in the game, to warrant a second yellow on a play like that is something that’s unnecessary.”

Atlanta United’s Jeff Larentowicz said. “I think that’s how they felt. You’d have to ask them, but I think that the first thing that (Medunjanin says to the ref is ‘That’s his second yellow’ like kind of ‘how could you’ so, you can understand the frustration,but there’s really no excuse to go after the ref like that. Afterward, like I said, I was  just trying to make sure that nothing else happened and everyone could kind - of just move on.”

Oh, Curtin wasn’t done. Not even close.

In the 88th minute, Philadelphia’s Fabinho raised his arms to block a cross struck by Julian Gressel. Stoica didn’t make the call. The ball rolled out of bounds for an Atlanta United throw-in. Atlanta United’s players began telling Franco Escobar not to take the throw-in until Stoica had time to listen to the Video Assistant Referee. Had Escobar taken the throw-in quickly, before Stoica could finish listening to the VAR, the play wouldn’t have been reviewable.

The VAR alerted him to check replay. He did and signaled penalty kick.

Curtin said that Stoica was telling Atlanta United not to take the throw-in.

“Again, man, it’s a tough day and I hope he comes out and at least is honest and admits some mistakes,” Curtin said. “That’s all you’re asking for. Again I will have no ill will toward him, because mistakes happen. We are all human beings. But there should be a little more accountability. I hope someone can ask him a question, as I’m going to get asked questions from different people after losing a game. So it’s tough, I know it’s a tough job that they have, but overall I think what would have been a very good game and I think our guys were really up for the game today, got ruined.”

There is a reporter for each game who is assigned to ask the referees questions after the game. It involves a written question. A written question was submitted, but a communication issue resulted in it not being walked to the referee’s locker room.

“It’s a shame because I think we started the game in the first 15 minutes very well,” Curtin said. “I think it would have been a very good game, unfortunately it was ruined and again credit to their fans.”

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