As always, there have been a couple of eyebrow raising calls to kick off the 2015 Major League Soccer season, but perhaps none more so than David Gantar showing Justin Morrow a red card in last weekend's match between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew. Considering Gantar's history with Toronto, and the timing and circumstances around the call, it instantly drew a negative reaction from Toronto fans, press and players alike.
However, in their weekly roundup entitled "plays of the week", Professional Referee Organization defended the call. PRO, as it is more generally known, is responsible for refereeing MLS, NASL, USL, NWSL and US Open Cup as well as several other international events. This is what they had to say in their review of the call and the pandemonium that took place afterward.
To begin with, here is the original video of the call posted on the MLS website. This is also how the majority of supporters and journalists viewed the call when it first happened.
The first thing that PRO was quick to mention in its analysis of the call was the fact that Ethan Finlay was in fact moving towards the net in full control of the ball. This sets the initial criteria for a "last man" call, which was what drew out the Red Card in this occasion. They gave this review of the play that followed:
"When Toronto's Justin Morrow is penalized for a foul on Finlay, the closest defender is Damien Perquis, who is trailing. The only element of doubt initially in a lot of people's minds when viewing this incident was whether or not it was actually a foul challenge, as the replays seem to suggest that Morrow won the ball cleanly and made no contact with Ethan Finlay."
This statement appears to defend Morrow, however it was quickly followed up by this clip from the reverse angle which shows the challenge in a different light. This also appears to be the basis for which PRO is saying Gantar made the correct decision.
To be fair, this angle does show Morrow making contact with Finlay before the ball, and therefore warranting at least some sort of call. Since he was the last man, that call does translate to a red card. However, this is also not the angle that referee David Gantar, or his assistant Danny Thornberry saw, with whom he consulted with before making the call official. What exactly either of them saw of the play is impossible to determine.
PRO did offer a sort of apology for the fact that the sending off was initially given to Damien Perquis, another of the major talking points that stemmed from this call.
"This is a lesson to all aspiring referees in keeping focussed and never losing sight of an offending player, and to ARs and 4th Officials that they also have a responsibility to assist the referee and ensure he is given the correct information."
Wow, a teachable moment, really. Sadly they didn't include any referee guide on how to defend against the angry American international who now has all the more reason to resent you.
There has been no release on whether or not Justin Morrow's red card will be rescinded for next weekend's match against Real Salt Lake. At this point, considering this statement by PRO and MLSSoccer staff also agreeing with the call, it doesn't appear likely.
It's time to move on, and worry about the many other roster problems that will be facing the team, when they meet Real Salt Lake close to an international break during which Canada, US and Italy all have matches.