Photo courtesy of New York Red Bulls II
For all parties on and off the field, the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee trial during Friday’s match between the New York Red Bulls II and Orlando City B had a number of watchful eyes.
Maintaining accuracy while not interrupting the flow of a game is a bedrock element of the International Football Association Board’s overseeing of the VAR system, and during NYRBII’s 5-1 win, the reviews were certainly positive.
The USL, in collaboration with Major League Soccer, implemented this groundbreaking initiative in USL regular-season play Friday night with center referee Ismail Elfath working with the VAR Allen Chapman at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Elfath elected to review two incidents and was in communication with the VAR throughout the game. When Elfath did utilize the reviewing process, both instances took limited time away from the match.
“Everyone was very pleased with the process, including IFAB,” said USL Operations senior director Brett Luy, who was on hand at Red Bull Arena behind the scenes. “We all felt it accomplished its intended purpose – to correct match-changing incidents.”
Photo courtesy of Major League Soccer
“It’s a credit to MLS and to USL that they want to be on the front foot as far as technology, the game of soccer, advancing the game of soccer and advancing the product,” NYRBII Head Coach John Wolyniec said after the match. “I’m all for that, and I’m glad to be a part of it because we consider ourselves an innovative, aggressive and advanced team.”
The first instance occurred when Orlando defender Conor Donovan fouled Red Bulls II forward Junior Flemmings during a potential breakaway run in the 35th minute. Elfath’s immediate ruling was a foul outside the box, but with Donovan being the last defender during that sequence and the play taking place near the edge of the box, he deemed it a play for review. In the span of only 24 seconds – from when making the official video monitor hand signal to then making his decision – Elfath brought out the red card and officially sent off Donovan in the 36th minute.
The other instance occurred in the 80th minute when OCB’s Kyle McFadden committed a dangerous challenge against NYRBII’s Florian Valot. In determining the severity, Elfath decided to review the play. In less than one minute from making the video review signal to determining the outcome, the center official ultimately issued a yellow card to McFadden.
There were moments in the match when Elfath did not need to utilize a VAR review, such as the penalty kick that led to Brandon Allen’s 62nd-minute goal. In the 61st minute, Orlando’s Antonio Matarazzo slid to disrupt a cross in the box, but his arm also made contact with the ball while he was still on the ground at the edge of the six-yard area. Elfath was positioned well to make the PK ruling, was in clear communication with the VAR after the play and went directly with his own decision without a review.
“Overall, I think it went pretty well and it didn’t affect the game,” Wolyniec said. “Obviously there was a change in the calls, but I don’t think it slowed the game down in too many respects. … It went overall pretty well.”