VAR plays big role in Atlanta United’s big win

September 13, 2017 Atlanta. New England minefielder Xavier Kouassi (12). got rejected from the game for a rough play to a Atlanta United player.
September 13, 2017 Atlanta. New England minefielder Xavier Kouassi (12). got rejected from the game for a rough play to a Atlanta United player.

Credit: MIguel Martinez

Credit: MIguel Martinez

VAR played a huge role in determining the outcome of Atlanta United’s 7-0 win against New England on Wednesday, and not even the team that benefited was happy afterward.

Video Assistant Referee, which started in August after more than a year of testing, assisted Baldomero Toledo in issuing red cards to Revs players Xavier Kouassi in the 16th minute for a serious foul against Yamil Asad and Antonio Milnar Delamea in the 38th minute for a handball in the penalty box. Reduced to nine men, New England became the first team in league history to fail to take a shot in a game, and its margin of defeat matched the largest in league history.

“I think the game changed completely,” said Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who later added he wasn’t a fan of VAR. “Honestly, it was a bizarre 45 (minutes), but that’s kind-of the world we’re in right now.”

It was difficult to see Kouassi’s foul in real-time. It appeared that Toledo blew the whistle after Kouassi knocked down Asad 40 yards from Atlanta United’s goal and was ready to re-start play. Toledo then put his hand to his ear and after a few seconds made the rectangular motion with his fingers that meant he was going to check the video replay system, which has stations on either end of the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

On replay, Kouassi was seen stomping on Asad’s ankles twice: Once on the original attempted tackle and then again as Asad was falling down.

A few seconds later Toledo came back onto the field and gave Kouassi a straight red.

“I don’t think anyone has seen anything like it because VAR just came into play,” New England manager Jay Heaps said. “I don’t think that you are not going to see more like this. I felt like tonight they overstepped what they think they should be doing. I think the penalty-kick calls are great. I think the first red card was a reach to VAR something as opposed to (the) referee saw something, let it go. It is what it is. We’re in a new age — a new era. It’s not pleasant.”

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said he’s OK with the Video Assistant Referee system used by MLS to aid the officials on the field, but described it as “a little boring.”

“Sometimes it’s in your favor, sometimes it’s against you,” Martino said. “In the case of the second red card and the penalty, it was pretty clear so you didn’t need replay. In general it’s boring ...

“I’m not saying I’m against it. I think it’s useful in certain decisive plays. But to stop for a foul in the middle of the field is different. I’d prefer they focus on decisive plays, even though that foul in the middle of the field led to a red card.”

Larentowicz said whether you agree with VAR it’s moot and that “it’s going to come around to get you.”

Martino indirectly referenced that in his postgame comments, referring to the use of VAR in Sunday’s 3-0 win against Dallas. In that game, a penalty kick awarded to Atlanta United was taken away after VAR deemed that Josef Martinez started an attacking play offsides. The play ended with him being tackled by Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez in the penalty box, resulting in the soon-erased penalty.

“That’s enough about that,” Martino said.

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