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Video Assistant Referee: Thoughts So Far

Video Review was implemented in the beginning of August. Two months in, how has it fared so far?

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York Red Bulls
Kaka was issued a red card after VAR review back in August, was it the right call?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Aug. 5, 2017 may be a date that will go on to live in infamy for fans of Major League Soccer, as it was the first time that the Video Assistant Referee was called upon to make a decision in an MLS match. Video Review pulled a goal back from FC Dallas against the Philadelphia Union, due to a foul that the officials on the field had missed, leading up to the shot by Maxi Urruti. In the first weekend of VAR, it actually did two things right in calling goals back for fouls that were missed, however, as time went on, and more calls were made by the VAR, and more times Video Review should have been used but wasn’t, it leads all of us to ask the question: how has this implementation been so far? Do we like it? Does it need adjustment?

I’ll begin everything here by stating that I personally have a very love/hate relationship with Video Review. For years I have loved the idea of it. Then I watched the way that it would be implemented, and it was everything I had ever wanted. It was like voice in my head was replaced by pro wrestler Daniel Bryan, all I heard was “YES! YES! YES!” But then the guidelines for what could be reviewed were released and I felt they were a little slim. Then the first few times it was used left myself and quite a few other fans completely perplexed (we will dive into this a little more later). Realistically I don’t know how to feel about the use of VAR anymore, I think it can still be good, I just think it needs more adjusting. Hopefully, with its use in the German Bundesliga, and at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, more of the kinks in Video Review will be hammered out and more correct calls can be made.

As I stated previously, VAR decisions got a few things right in the first week, but after that, things got a little perplexing. Especially as an Orlando City fan, you found yourself with your head in your hands with at least one decision made by VAR. That main decision in question was in the second week afte implementation. Kaká was issued a red card against the New York Red Bulls, for “violent conduct.” I put violent conduct in quotes for a reason, and that reason being, I don’t see it. As I’m sure you have seen, there was a hard foul and then some extra curricular activities by both teams that resulted in a Video Review, which showed Kaká joking around with former teammate Aurelien Collin, by grabbing at his face. Well, after review that was deemed a red card offense, and Kaká was sent off, even after the pleading of the city players, and some of the New York players.

This is normally where I would include a link to the footage from MLSsoccer.com of the incident in question, however, the highlight of the fouls, review, and red card are no longer available on their site, and if you watch the extended highlights from that match, the only clip from this altercation that is shown, is when Kaká is flashed the red card. After that it cuts to the final whistle. I’m not saying that’s a little sketchy to me, but I’m also not not saying it.

Maybe they cut the clip out cause they realized that the referees got the call wrong, and it looked bad? I don’t know exactly on that front, but what I can say is I researched the highlights of a good amount of VAR decisions on MLS’s website while writing this article, and that was the only clip that didn’t play.

Potential weird controversy of MLS trying to hide its VAR related mishaps aside, I’ll jump into another time where I think it went a little too far, although this time it was incredibly beneficial to the Lions. At the end of September, Orlando City played the New England Revolution here at Orlando City Stadium, and defeated the Revs, 6-1. However, before all the scoring began, midfielder Xavier Kouassi was sent off after a VAR decision for a tackle on Seb Hines.

As a former official, looking at the tape, he won the ball and caught Hines with his studs up on the follow through. I do understand how this could be interpreted as a red card, but in my understanding of the rules, this is no more serious than a yellow card, and in the highlights you can even hear the commentators for TV27 state that they didn’t believe it was an intentional act and that they didn’t believe that it was worthy of a red card. Obviously one was issued and it gave the Lions license to run rampant all over the Revs.

I know that there have been plenty of instances this year where VAR has raised question marks, but it seems as though it is here to stay. FIFA, the Bundesliga, Serie A, and MLS are all big proponents of it, and it seems like it is gaining traction all around the world. I do think though that guidelines for what can be reviewed should be expanded. I’m not saying we need to review foul throw-ins, I’m just saying a lot of action happens outside the box that frequently gets missed, and I know that officials have the opportunity to call for a review, just sometimes they chose not to, and I believe that should change to make the interpretation of the game a lot more fair.

I will say though, I understand that this lengthens a game, and will result in players and fans asking for reviews frequently. That will definitely take some adjusting to, but in the long run I think it could lead to the betterment of the sport.

We will wrap this up by passing the discussion on to all of you Mane Landers out there. We did focus primarily on decisions in Orlando City games, but are there any other VAR calls from this year that left you scratching your head? Do you think VAR will have similar issues in other leagues, or the issues we’re seeing are MLS specific? Do you like VAR? Do you hate it? What would you do to change it? And for the conspiracy theorists out there, do you think MLS is trying to cover up any bad mistakes that were made through VAR by trying to remove their highlights?

That last question obviously isn’t as serious as the others. We just love to take the opportunity to stir the pot when something peculiar arises in our research. Now, in the end, in this sport that has gone relatively unchanged for decades, it is important that when changes are made we have discussions to see how we can continuously improve upon those changes, so we would absolutely embrace any and all input on the subject.