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Vermes frustration runs deep with no-call on handball v Real Salt Lake

“It could have been really simple.”

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Sporting Kansas City Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

After Sporting Kansas City’s 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on MLS Decision Day, Manager Peter Vermes addressed media about a non-call handball on the following play in the 89th minute:

The no-call starved Kansas City of the chance for a penalty kick to go up 1-0 to possibly gain the win and the full three points to crown them regular season Western Conference Champions with the first-round bye and a spot in the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League.

Vermes was rightfully vocal at what was a clear failure of the VAR system.

“The fact that you have replays. The fact that you sit upstairs and you look at replays and you have all the time in the world to make that decision. [Referee Ted Unkle] could have blew the whistle at any time. But VAR not coming back and talking about a clear and obvious mistake, that that is not a handball, if that is the case, if that’s what they believe... I would say that all of those guys are not able to referee, to look at VAR, at this level.”

The result also eliminated the LA Galaxy from the playoffs. But Vermes painted a rightfully larger picture.

“It has impacted everything. It is a black mark on this league. It is an example of why we lose so many people to watch this game... because we do not get it right. It’s what I appreciate about the NFL. They get it right. And when they make a mistake they are professional enough to stand up and say they did it, and they put in processes to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That is why they are the best league in our country.”

“The fact that we missed that out there, in any game, let alone the magnitude of this game, is incredibly disappointing to someone who has been in the league since 1996. We have come so far, but we haven’t come far enough. I’m embarrassed to be part of the league when you can’t do that.”

The role of VAR is to review actions on the field and take action on what could be deemed a clear and obvious error in the officiating on the field.

“The fact that it doesn’t get called, you have to start asking yourself questions of why. If anyone... is watching a replay on TV, how clear is it? Maybe the referee is not in a good spot, I can understand that. That is why there is VAR.”

To Vermes, the no-call is just another example of Sporting being on the short end of calls.

“I believe on a consistent basis, that this club ends up being on the wrong side of any of those calls. It happens all the time... Last year we played FC Dallas in Dallas. There is a goal we scored. They actually call a foul against us, coming out. The VAR person is watching that game and misses it there as well. We get nothing out of that. Dallas gets the benefit. Afterwards they say, ‘Oh yeah, it was a mistake.’ But there is no benefit.”

“If they come out after this and say they made a mistake, what does it do for us, what does it do for other teams that have been impacted? Zero. This is unacceptable to me. It is a travesty.”

Now Vermes will have to pick up the pieces, pieces he and his club don’t deserve.

“The most difficult thing I will have to deal with now leading up to when we play, based on the team, the staff, I am going to have to figure out, because of how devastated they are for all the work they have done over the course of the year. It doesn’t matter if it comes down to the last play of the game, if you make the mistake. But it’s another thing when it’s clear and obvious and you cannot make the call, even with replay. Something has to change.”

“Something has to change in the way they look at this club. Because this club has been a model citizen since our ownership took over. We continue to get, somehow, this small market treatment, that, frankly, I am tired of. We have been the best partner in this league in the way that our owners have shared things that they do on the business side, what we do on the technical side, we’ve helped expansion teams come into this league. We’ve done so many things.”

Fans, staff, and players live and die with results, something Vermes feels the league does not feel.

“I am not asking for them to give us something; I am just asking them to do what is in front of them. A handball is a handball. Call it for us. Call if for the other team. But call it for us. And on a regular basis, they don’t. I’ve had this discussion with the league time and time again, and they don't’ admit to it. The reason why is because, first off, they have to protect their own. That’s one. And I’ll give the other: They don’t know what it’s like to live to be a club, to be a team. They don’t deal with wins and losses and ties. They don’t deal with disappointment, and have to get back on the saddle again and find a way to win. Those players do. Our staff does. Our fans do. And that is incredibly disrespectful to all of those groups, to our owners who put so much into this...

“I want answers from the league. I want them to come out and explain why it wasn’t called. I can’t even get answers from referees on the field to tell me what the process was. ‘Why weren’t you asked to go look at it on video?’ ...It could have been really simple.”

Update: The pool reporter, Daniel Sperry, got to ask the referees questions after the game, here are the questions and their responses.