MLS yet again had a game that featured VAR being used, or not used, take away from the action on the field. This time a seemingly clear incident in the FS1 game between Sporting Kansas City vs. the Columbus Crew was not reviewed.
Unbelievable. Cristian Martínez clearly slapped Seth Sinovic in the face off-the-ball, but Robert Sibiga didn't even go over to Video Review monitor and there was no card given. Far more of an obvious red card than many in #MLS, and yet nothing? #SKCvCLB #SportingKC #CrewSC #VAR pic.twitter.com/KgtwyCT9Zl— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) May 27, 2018
Seth Sinovic would leave the game seemingly because of being punched and yet there was no review. There have been other incidents where video reviews have produced calls that don’t seem in line with the rules, are unexplained, and take an excessive amount of time to determine.
Between the long delays, player dissatisfaction, fan confusion about whether to celebrate a goal or dread a play being overturned, and general poor implementation of video review, MLS quickly needs to find a remedy for the flawed process. The league has hard enough of a time getting better ratings than cornhole and with no USMNT players heading to the World Cup this summer the appeal of the league may be lost to new viewers. What’s more, adopting the absolute worst part of the NFL, a league that MLS increasingly looks to be emulating, by making its rules more opaque and endlessly litigating plays during long review delays, the league may risk alienating existing fans. Ironically, MLS has never been better, but if it hopes to attract and keep new fans, the refereeing, video and otherwise, needs to start matching the higher quality of the play on the field.
A clean sheet in Toronto
Before Jonathan Gonzalez and Efrain Alvarez, Jesse Gonzalez was the most recent Mexican-American deciding between the two countries. Of course Jesse would pick the USMNT over El Tri, but he has had a difficult time proving he should get his first cap. Between injuries and poor showing, it wasn’t clear that Gonzalez was the first choice keeper in Dallas, much less could be an option for the USMNT. That could definitely change if he does what he did Friday night in Toronto consistently all year.
Again Jesse Gonzalez denies #Giovinco with a great save! #TFC have started off very brightly, putting #FCDallas under significant early pressure. #TFCLive #TORvFCD #TORvDAL #MLS pic.twitter.com/AbS50IESYr— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) May 26, 2018
Then he did this
All of that added up to a nine save clean sheet, including saving a penalty, for the 23 year-old. With Dallas steadily climbing the table in the Western Conference, if Gonzalez continues to perform like this he will make it difficult to not call him into the national team in future games.
Miguel Ibarra take a bow
Minnesota United hasn’t exactly been an impressive club since joining MLS. Some ugly losses and record setting goals allowed in 2017 illustrated an imbalanced, inexperienced roster. This season there have been some improvements with the defense keeping things somewhat more competitive and some players stepping up as injuries have been a setback for the team. One player stepping up will be a familiar name to USMNT fans - Miguel Ibarra. The midfielder of course earned a cap for the national team when Minnesota was still in NASL, went to Club Leon and then returned to MLS when the Loons joined the league.
While Ethan Finlay and Kevin Molino have sustained knee injuries that will sideline them for at least this season, Ibarra has stepped up for the Loons. He has two goals and three assists on the year, with one goal a game winner against Vancouver and an assist coming in an appearance off of the bench in a win against Orlando City. Ibarra again had a key goal as Minnesota beat the Montreal Impact 2-0. As this tweet mentions, Christian Ramirez also netted a goal in the win.
More a slow cooker than a thousand degree oven
It’s hard to draw highlights for a player on a bad team in a position where highlights are hard to come by. Perry Kitchen has played all but one half for the LA Galaxy this season but quietly had a good game for the team in their 1-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes. According to WhoScored, Kitchen completed 52 passes in the game, managed two interceptions, and started the sequence that led to this shot for Romain Alessandrini.
A good defensive effort at Red Bull Arena
Following their 3-1 win in Atlanta, it looked like the New York Red Bulls would be in line for another win as they hosted the Philadelphia Union at home on Saturday. That wouldn’t quite be the case as the Union kept New York at bay limiting the Red Bulls to just four shots on target. They were particularly effective at shutting down Bradley Wright-Phillips who had a game of the week performance last weekend with two goals and an earned penalty. The match was a real test for the American backline of Raymon Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, and Keegan Rosenberry who shut down one of the more dynamic and difficult to defend attacks in MLS. Trusty and McKenzie are particularly impressive as the pair are just 19 years-old and are leading a line that has allowed just two goals in its last four games.
As long as we’re highlighting American defenders in the match, Americans Aaron Long and Tim Parker had a hand in a clean sheet as well for the Red Bulls.
Arriola again on the score sheet
DC United may be a team that is looking to open a stadium with the unveiling of Wayne Rooney in a few weeks and they have consistently underperformed in a league that isn’t that hard to get an edge in for a good part of a decade. But, things could be turning around with the aforementioned stadium and the pieces of what could be a fun attacking team. This post has highlighted Chris Durkin quite a few times this year, but Paul Arriola has been quietly putting together some good matches for the Black and Red. In his last three games, the winger has a goal and two assists. While DCU wasn’t able to claim a second victory in a row on their California swing, they did manage a draw against a very talented Los Angeles Football Club team thanks to the help of Arriola and a first half injury time red card handed out to Dejan Jakovic.
Luckily this goal wasn’t overturned by the VAR official, but the breathless moments between a goal being scored and finding out if it actually counts because there may have been an infraction that is discovered due to re-watching a play a dozen times is getting exhausting.
Meanwhile in Kansas City
While I was grousing above about video review, the game between Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew itself was a stout defensive effort from both teams. Tim Melia saved a Gyasi Zardes penalty and kept a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw. Meanwhile Zack Steffen helped the Crew stay unbeaten in 7. In that stretch, the team did not allow a goal in the month of May and he hasn’t allowed a goal in 415 minutes.
You did your best...
Following up on our discussion from Friday on if MLS is terrible, I present to you Belgium National Team central defender and 2018 World Cup roster member - Laurent Ciman expertly trying to draw a penalty against DC United.
<Extreme Alexi Lalas voice>: I KNOW that Ciman isn’t an American.... BUT - DC United is an American Original and THAT is an ORIGINAL tweet <nods head, admires self>.