The Philadelphia Union were going to concede a goal again and lose a match at some point, but the 2-1 loss to Toronto FC will go down as one of those matches that hinged on two referee decisions that both went against the visitors.
The first was an obvious red card that wasn’t shown to Jayden Nelson in the 19th minute when the 19-year-old slid in dangerously with a high boot on Kai Wagner near the corner flag at Toronto’s end.
Referee Alex Chilowicz rushed in after the senseless and dangerous play not with a red but a yellow card and despite an ample enough delay with Wagner still putting himself back together Chilowicz didn’t consult the video review to get another look.
“The tackle on Kai is something everybody sees whether you’re a Toronto fan, a Union fan or anyone who knows anything about soccer,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said to begin his post-game call with media. “You can’t go into a challenge like that and it’s a straight red card.”
Curtin noted that it’s a situation where you could very well see a suspension applied after the fact by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Nelson was replaced at halftime by Deandre Kerr.
“Everyone can see Kai’s lucky he’s got two legs at the moment,” defender Jack Elliott said when asked about the play post-game. “That was a pretty bad tackle.”
Wagner was able to continue in the match and thought he had given his team a 2-1 lead with a volley off a cleared corner kick in the 42nd minute but Chilowicz consulted video review this time and waved off the goal for interference with the goalkeeper by a player in an offside position. In the video replay you can see Julian Carranza — who was offside — make a gesture to move out of the way of the ball just before it went past Alex Bono and into the goal.
“You have to have convincing, clear and obvious evidence that he was interfered with,” Curtin said. “I still can’t tell whether he was or wasn’t. I guess you could argue that all 22 players in the field are involved in the play and some might be a distraction, I guess.”
The decision to not go to the video review for the first play while using it for the second proved to be detrimental to the outcome but the Union still created the better of the chances and had they buried at least one of them could’ve escaped at the very least with a point. The Union’s xG for the night was 2.1 to Toronto’s 0.4 and they put five of their 15 shots on frame.
“Expected goals are nice, but real goals are what matter and we didn’t score enough of them tonight,” Curtin said. “We certainly had some some good looks. They made some plays in the box. It wasn’t our night. We weren’t our sharpest offensively or defensively. Still probably deserved a point at least out of the game.”
A win Saturday night would’ve equaled the total road wins from last season for the Union after they picked up road wins in Montreal and at Yankee Stadium in New York City in their first two games of the season away from home. The boys in blue return home next Saturday for the return fixture with CF Montreal at 3 p.m. at Subaru Park.