Last night, D.C. United defeated the Columbus Crew 3-1 at Audi Field thanks to goals from Luciano Acosta, Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola, but the complexion of the match would’ve been wildly different had the Crew’s 22nd-minute opener been allowed to stand.
With the score level at 0-0, referee Ted Unkel got mixed up in the play with United in possession. A pass intended for Acosta never reached its mark because of the ref’s interference, and Wil Trapp immediately released Pedro Santos going the other way. Santos hammered home his finish, 1-0 to the Crew.
Except no. After consulting with the VAR, Unkel decided that Trapp had fouled Acosta.
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) May 5, 2019
Was that the case? Absolutely not.
Unkel used VAR to cover up his own mistake in the buildup. This is both unprecedented and extremely unsporting by the referee, who, by law, should simply hold up his hands, admit his error in positioning and allow the goal to stand.
Crew manager Caleb Porter was less than enthused following the match.
“If you watch it, and I’m sure you guys have, maybe you haven’t, it’s a fair goal, 100 percent,” Porter said. “Referee gets in the way, referee fouls Acosta and then the referee goes and looks at the television to bail himself out. I’ve never in my life seen anything like that, ever. So, everything was spot on out of our guys and that’s a fair goal, it should have been 1-0.
“We’re not allowed to talk to the referees, ever. He told them I think that Wil fouled Acosta, which didn’t happen. It’s unbelievable, guys. It’s unprecedented. I don’t think this has ever happened, where a referee gets in the way and then uses an excuse on VAR to bail himself out for a fail goal that we scored, that was 10 seconds after the play. 10 seconds after the play. It’s bad that he got in the way, obviously, but even worse that he looked at the VAR. I’ve seen the same thing he saw. The fact that he’s looking at the VAR and trying to bail himself out, there should be massive ramifications for that.”
Five minutes after the debacle, Acosta would open the scoring for United. The VAR would come into play again on D.C.'s second when it spotted a handball from Trapp just before halftime. Rooney converted the penalty.
— D.C. United (@dcunited) May 5, 2019
The victory puts United level on points with Philadelphia at the top of the Eastern Conference. Columbus is in sixth.