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SKC’s Vermes on VAR and “Breath of fresh air”

1st match creates talking points and how “to sell MLS”

MLS: New York City FC at Sporting KC Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Three yellow cards, one straight red card, and two uses of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) were administered by Professional Referees Organization’s (PRO) Mark Geiger and his officiating crew in Sporting Kansas City’s 2-0 home loss to NYCFC last Sunday during MLS’s kickoff weekend.

The game management brought critiques from Sporting KC’s Head coach Peter Vermes on Thursday.

“I was very impressed in how fast Mark dealt with kicking the ball away or standing in front of the ball with a yellow card because it changes the game,” said Vermes. “And how fast he dealt with the goalkeeper slowing the game down very early in the second half.”

NYCFC’s Jesus Medina (not retreating) and goalkeeper Sean Johnson (time-wasting) received two of their side’s three yellow cards in the match, while Vermes’ squad earned none.

Delaying restarts and time-wasting is one of the four points of emphasis for PRO and its general manager Howard Webb to cut down on in matches (The others are visual dissent, persistent infringement, and holding and pushing in the penalty area.) with the goal being to “make the game more attractive.”

“It was last year as well. I was interested to see if it was going to actually be upheld; I don’t think last year it was,” said Vermes. “I talked with [Howard] in Arizona and asked him if that was going to be something. And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ … To see that happen in our first game was a breath of fresh air.”

“Forget about Sporting Kansas City right now, I’m looking at it as a fan who wants to watch soccer. I want to see the game moving fast,” Vermes stated. “The referee is that impartial person that has the duty to [heighten the pace of the match]. I was really, really happy to see that because that’s the way the game should be presented. If we want to sell MLS, then it should look like that. I guarantee that it makes for a better presentation on tv and also in the stadium.”

Delaying a restart and unsporting behavior, which NYFC’s Alexander Ring received his yellow for, are two of the seven cautionable offenses in soccer. Maxime Chanot’s denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity appropriately earned a straight red card (no caution there), but only after his 88th minute foul on Sporting Kansas City’s attacker Gerso Fernandes was reviewed via VAR. Sporting KC was awarded a free kick just outside NYCFC’s box that Chilean Felipe Gutierrez struck well only to see Johnson push the attempt off the crossbar.

Major League Soccer (MLS) put VAR in place midway through last season to focus on correcting clear and obvious errors made by officials.

The first chance Sporting KC had to get back in the game impacted by the referees was nine minutes earlier as Chanot defended Daniel Salloi’s run onto a wayward ball that fell into NYCFC’s penalty area. Chanot’s challenge – mostly from the side – saw him touch the ball away and take out Salloi. Geiger immediately signaled for a penalty kick. But after reviewing the VAR (albeit very briefly), Geiger reversed his call.

MLSSoccer.com’s Andrew Wiebe and Bobby Warshaw breakdown the VAR calls beginning at 3.48.

“I’m a supporter of VAR. I think you should always stick to what you say you are going to do as well,” said Vermes. “If it’s going to be ‘clear and obvious’, then you stay with clear and obvious. If you have a decision, and it’s not clear and obvious, then you have to stick with your decision. It’s got to be one or the other.”

In 2017, use of VAR required a stoppage of play 50 times, correcting 32 errors.

“As time goes on, I think it can only get better, and the efficiency of it and everything else that goes with it. We didn’t lose the game because of VAR by any means,” Vermes said. “We have to stick to all the things that are a part of the game, and one of those is, if you are doing VAR and you talk about you’re going to change the decisions based on ‘clear and obvious’, then make sure that’s what it is.”