While play in the National Women’s Soccer League is some of the best in the world (I’d argue it’s the best league top to bottom), we have to be honest and admit one thing is clearly holding the NWSL back: officiating. The NWSL has far too many mistakes by its referees, made all the worse by the fact there is no VAR (for now).
Gotham FC was the victim of a particularly horrible piece of officiating against Angel City on Sunday, as if the New York/New Jersey club needed any more bad luck this season.
Still scoreless early in the match, Ifeoma Onumonu had a shot deflected off the post and over the goal line before ACFC keeper DiDi Haračić snagged it, doing her best to pretend it didn’t go in the goal.
At this point, the referee presumably had two options: award Gotham a goal or judge the ball didn’t cross the line and play on. Instead, the referee confused everyone by awarding a corner kick. What?
Gotham FC Disallowed Goal
Ifeoma Onumonu sends a ball over the line for a Gotham goal BUT the referee calls a corner instead. pic.twitter.com/U2i0CWaC5B— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) August 28, 2022
To me, that looks like a goal, but I could see the argument for not awarding a goal, as it would have been difficult for the referee or assistant referee to determine if the whole ball cross the whole line in live action.
If the referee had just allowed play to continue, I’d consider this a missed call but not a bad call; without VAR, it’s hard to be 100 percent certain. What made this a bad call is the fact the referee gave Gotham a corner kick. There is no logical reason to award a corner kick in that situation, unless the officials thought the ball somehow flew over the crossbar and out of bounds before magically returning to the playing field, going off the post and into the goal/arms of Haračić. Last I checked, magic doesn’t exist, and if it did it sure wouldn’t be in New Jersey.
Even N.C. Courage defender Abby Erceg was baffled, commenting before her match against Kansas City later that day.
So.. If the ball crosses the line between those two white sticks with a net on it it’s considered out now, not a goal?
Phew, glad I saw this before our game today, would have had my priorities all messed up. https://t.co/hWB2nqANS3— Abby Erceg (@abbyerceg) August 28, 2022
After missing a chance to go ahead early, Gotham conceded three first-half goals on the way to a 3-1 defeat. Gotham remains bottom of the league with 12 points, 14 points away from a playoff berth in what’s been a dreadful season for the club. Angel City, meanwhile, moved within one point of sixth-place Chicago and has a strong chance to make the postseason in its first year even after star Christen Press suffered a season-ending injury.
One wonders how the match would have played out had Gotham been given the goal it deserved, but without VAR we’ll never know. Fortunately, the NWSL announced in July it will introduce the VAR in 2023.
“Based on the data and everything that I’ve learned over the last two and a half months, it’s clear that instituting and implementing VAR is probably the single most important thing that we could do to improve the consistency and the quality of the officiating,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said at the time.
She’s not wrong. Until 2023, we can only hope there are no more egregious calls like this.
UPDATE: PRO, the Professional Referee Organization, said Monday an “egregious officiating error” was made on the play. The officials involved have been removed from their next assignments.
Re: the no-call goal for @GothamFC, there’s a statement from PRO that says an “egregious officiating error” was made. #NWSL pic.twitter.com/YAUSxA1WPq— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) August 29, 2022