VAR. Video Assistant Referee. Leagues all over the world rely on it and MLS is no different. But after a couple of non-calls directly affected the outcome of two recent Crew games, I decided to learn a bit about MLS’s rules for its use. I have a major problem with something I found.
Let’s say it is very late in a tie game and there is a loose ball in front of a prone goalkeeper only a few feet from the net. And let’s say an offensive player, who is about to put his foot into the loose ball, is unceremoniously grabbed from behind and pulled down onto his back. Let’s also say the referee doesn’t call a foul, but the VAR contacts him (or her) and says, “Duuude, you really need to take a look at that!”, or something to that effect. The referee can say, “Nope, I’m good.” If a referee is sure of what they saw, they do not have to take the advice of the VAR. I have a real problem with that.
MLS’s use of VAR goes on the assumption that referees sometimes are unsure when they make a call. That is incredibly naïve. Referees in all sports are dead certain they are correct each time they make a call. That’s why the NFL, college football, and other leagues don’t give their officials an option to say no. They are told to look at the video available and review their call. MLS needs to do the same.
There’s a simple solution to this issue. Allow teams one challenge each per game. Currently, a coach can’t ask for a video review. Giving each team only one opportunity to question a call or non-call will force a referee to take a second look at his decision and ensure they get it right After all, getting it right is the most important thing.
Until the owners really make a lot of noise about changing the way MLS handles VAR, you won’t see a change. But I’m of the belief one is sorely needed.