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PRO explains why Atlanta United’s goal was disallowed at Toronto

Julian Gressel’s goal in the 63rd minute against Toronto on Sunday was called back because the assistant referee judged Josef Martinez to be offside, the Professional Referees Organization said on Tuesday.

The call came in a pivotal moment in the game.

Trailing 2-0, Atlanta United was attempting to rally at BMO Field.

At the time, the New York Red Bulls and Orlando were tied at 0-0 in Harrison N.J. If that game were to remain tied, and Atlanta United were to lose at Toronto, the Five Stripes and the Red Bulls would have ended up tied with 69 points each in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.

Working through the tie-breakers, if Atlanta United could cut its deficit to one against Toronto, the Five Stripes and the Red Bulls would have also tied on goal-difference. The next tie-breaker would have been goals scored, which Atlanta United would have won, securing the Shield as its first trophy.

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In the end, it didn’t matter because the Red Bulls defeated Orlando 1-0. The Red Bulls finished with 71 points, the Shield and the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

But, in the moment, Gressel’s disallowed goal was a key moment.

The goal was pulled back because the assistant referee judged that Martinez started his run from an offside position when the pass was played by Hector Villalba through Toronto’s defense.

Martinez ran onto the pass and shot, which was blocked by Toronto goaltender Alex Bono into Gressel’s path.

The flag went up after the goal was scored, leading to some confusion as to which player -- Gressel or Martinez -- was thought to be offside.

From PRO:

“The Professional Referee Organization can confirm that Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez was identified to be in an offside position. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) used two images to determine that the initial offside call was not a clear and obvious error. While the decision was very tight, it appears that Martinez is slightly ahead of the second-to-last opponent. 

“Assistant Referees have been instructed to delay the showing of the flag in close offside situations that could lead to an immediate goal-scoring opportunity. This was the case as Martinez nearly scored himself. The rationale for the delayed offside flag is to allow the scoring opportunity to run its full course. On the rare occasion that a goal is scored and the offside decision is clearly wrong , the VAR can recommend a review, and the referee could allow the goal to stand. While Gressel was the eventual goal scorer, Martinez was in an offside position during the attacking possession phase that led to that goal. The VAR was able to check and confirm that no clear error had been made with that offside decision. 

“This was a correct and good usage of video review to check that Atlanta had not been wrongly denied the goal.”

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