MLS Focus: Red Bulls' win at Atlanta marred by injuries and controversial calls

The New York Red Bulls became the second team in two weeks to come into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and beat Atlanta United, coming back from 1-0 down in the first half to beat the Five Stripes, 3-1.

Top 5: MLS teams (points per game)
2.10 1. NY Red Bulls (7-3-0)
2.08 2. Atlanta United (8-3-1)
2.00 3. NYCFC (7-2-3)
2.00 3. Sporting KC (7-2-3)
1.85 5. Columbus Crew (7-3-3)

The victory, the Red Bulls' fourth in a row, was marred by a scary injury to Jamaican Kemar Lawrence in the second half.

Lawrence went awkwardly to the ground to clear a ball in the 74th minute and he laid motionless. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was conscious, fully responsive and in good spirits, according to the Red Bulls. He was held overnight for observation.

During the delay while Lawrence was attended to, young Red Bulls star Tyler Adams left the game with swelling of his knee. Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said Adams felt fine but the Red Bulls took him out as a precaution.

“It was just weird to have a little bit of swelling," Marsch said. "It could be the turf, it could be a lot of things. We’re hopeful that he’s totally fine.”

Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice in the second half to break a 1-1 tie.  His two goals tied him with Atlanta's Josef Martinez and Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes for the league lead with eight goals. Kaku assisted on both BWP goals to give nine in just 742 minutes, an average of 1.09 per 90 minutes.

Martinez would have had his ninth goal to give Atlanta United a 2-0 lead late in the first half but it was disallowed after Video Review. He also had a goal disallowed after Video Review in the 2-0 loss to Sporting KC on May 9.

Atlanta United coach Tata Martino was critical of VAR chief Mark Geiger, who had been the referee in the Sporting KC match and red carded keeper Brad Guzan, for making what he termed the "decisive" calls of the game -- overturning Martinez's goal and not overturning a penalty kick whistled by referee Chris Penso to the Red Bulls late in the first half for a foul by Miles Robinson on Wright-Phillips.

“I don’t want to take away credit from Red Bulls," he said, "so I don’t want to justify it with VAR, because Red Bulls is a very good team and the same thing for Kansas City, but the reality is that both games had the same protagonist, and when I say the same, I’m not talking about the referee. I’m talking about the same person. In one game, he refereed and in the other he reviewed."

Martino said the penalty call was wrong.

"Really, the play on the penalty they call, very few times have I seen that called even a foul, let alone a penalty," he said. "It’s very difficult to understand that someone could have seen a foul. However, they call a penalty. And it was to be, at minimum 1-0 at the half. And everything adds up. The penalty. The goal taken away from Josef."

The VAR calls evened out for Atlanta United, though Martino didn't necessarily see it that way. Jeff Larentowicz had his red card turned to a yellow card in the second half. Martino said Geiger was trying to minimize Penso's "mistake" and couldn't call a foul on the Red Bulls.

"What they’re doing is covering for each other," Martino said, "and it’s logical because they’re co-workers.”

9 comments about "MLS Focus: Red Bulls' win at Atlanta marred by injuries and controversial calls".
  1. Wooden Ships, May 21, 2018 at 8:39 a.m.

    VAR, thanks everyone that claymored for its place in the game. And, why in the heck did Atlanta install plastic. Both “improvements” are embarrassing. 

  2. Phil Love, May 21, 2018 at 9:30 a.m.

    They really need to figure out what "clear and obvious error" means. 

  3. Wooden Ships replied, May 21, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.

    Phil, that’s subjective. Is that not clear and obvious? Not intending to be insulting, just disappointed that so many believe technology is going to make the game better.

  4. frank schoon replied, May 21, 2018 at 4:04 p.m.

    Talk about dissapointment....this VAR ruined the game and it ruined the rhythm of the better team, Atlanta, soccer wise. 

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, May 22, 2018 at 8:22 a.m.

    Agree that VAR is an unnecessary complication. VAR technology doesn't replace human judgment. It merely adds more people to the process increasing the points at which human error can occur.

  6. Wallace Wade, May 21, 2018 at 12:31 p.m.

    Didn’t watch the match. I did watch the highlights online. The goal disallowed for Atlanta was a joke. You would never have seen that called anywhere else in World Soccer. The penalty given to New York in the foul in Bradley Wright-Phillips, was incorrect as well. There was some contact however, watch him clip his heels together and dive before the contact. That’s imbellishment. He should have been yellow carded. 

  7. Boris Kressevich replied, May 21, 2018 at 2:34 p.m.

     Paul Kennedy why not give more credit to the Bulls, they cdeserve it.

  8. Randy Vogt, May 21, 2018 at 1:43 p.m.

    The concept of VAR is very good although the execution has not been as good. From the little I have seen in matches around the world that use VAR (outside MLS), I believe MLS is doing better than other leagues in its application, believe it or not. When the NFL adopted instant replay to help the officials in 1985, they discontinued the process in 1992 since, according to the NFL website, "the system delayed games too much and failed to get enough of the calls correct." The NFL started a different instant replay system in 1999 which continues to this day. One way to not delay the game so much is for the VAR to tell the ref that there has been a clear and obvious error and this is how the game needs to be restarted and not have the ref jog to the video and make a decision, which takes an additional minute or two. I'm rather fearful that some of the World Cup refs, without much experience with VAR, will have some real issues in Russia with its application and a lot of controversy will follow. 

  9. beautiful game, May 21, 2018 at 10:02 p.m.

    With VAR or without VAR, incompetence is unchecked.

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