In a scoreless draw with only one shot on goal combined, an overturned own goal is bound to be the major talking point.
That’s certainly the case with the Philadelphia Union’s game Saturday night in Columbus.
While returning home with a point from a scoreless draw isn’t the worst result, Union fans have a right to be upset with the way the review of a 38th minute own goal went down.
First, let’s rewatch what happened.
Haris Medunjanin starts the play off with a long left-footed blast downfield that Cory Burke tries to settle. Lalas Abubukar marks him tightly and falls down on the play.
Nearly two minutes later — after a healthy protest from Crew players — the goal is taken off the scoreboard following the video review.
This is how referee Drew Fischer — who used VAR to confirm a Burke goal in a 1-0 win over New England Revolution in late August — explained the decision to MLS pool reporter Andrew Erickson of The Columbus Dispatch:
Why did you call a foul on Cory Burke that negated a goal in the 36th minute?
The goal in the 36th minute was negated because Cory Burke pushed his opponent.
What caused the foul to rise to the level of a clear and obvious error?
The VAR determined that there was a clear pushing foul which led to the opponent falling to the ground and Cory Burke gaining possession of the ball.
Burke does make contact with Abubakar before he goes down, but the Crew center back is back peddling at the time and goes down rather easily. In the moment, if the ref blows his whistle to call the foul perhaps the protest is mild.
But the play is allowed to continue and Burke, alone in the box, hits a ball that beats Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, goes across the face of goal and winds up being knocked in by Jonathan Mensah.
When the goal happens, the decision on the field is no foul because the play is allowed to continue. The review determines just the opposite.
The play can be reviewed in the first place presumably because all goals are reviewable, but watch the clip above again and tell me that not calling a foul looked like “a clear error” or “ a serious missed incident.”
Yes, Burke technically makes contact with Abubukar and the officiating crew is within its rights to whistle a foul no matter how easily the Crew defender goes down. But just because a foul can be called in real time doesn’t mean it was a “clear error.”
Union head coach Jim Curtin was being diplomatic after the match when he said “it could go either way” and he’s not wrong. It’s a bang-bang play on a 50-50 ball. Letting it go and allowing the Burke-created own goal to stand would have been justified, as would whistling the play a foul live in the moment.
Going back and calling a foul that doesn’t hold up as a clear foul after repeated looks at the video just seems unfair.
What did you think of the play? Think the Union got the shaft? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.