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‘It’s criminal’: Real Salt Lake’s bad luck with VAR leads to loss to Colorado


Colorado Rapids midfielder Cole Bassett (26) and Real Salt Lake midfielder Nick Besler (13) tie up in the first half of an MLS football game on Saturday, August 21 2021 in Commerce City, Colorado (AP Photo / Jack Dempsey) (Jack Dempsey, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake manager Freddy Juarez will likely write Major League Soccer a check. For him, it will be worth it.

“It’s criminal that they take something away from our guys like that,” Juarez said of the refereeing immediately after a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Commerce City.

Sure, the Rocky Mountain Cup is a heated rivalry – exemplified by the many scrambling and shouting matches towards the end of the game – but RSL’s real nemesis on Saturday came down to a three-letter combination: VAR.

Replay took an apparent RSL goal off the board in the first half and changed the decision to take a penalty in the second. RSL therefore left Colorado feeling like they had lost three points, especially since Juarez and the team certainly disagreed with any of those decisions.

In the 34th minute, Albert Rusnak sent a free kick into the box where Justen Glad threw a volley towards the Colorado goalkeeper. The initial shot was knocked back, but Rubio Rubin flew off and scored what looked like the game’s first goal.

But after a few moments, the referee mimed the dreaded box and walked over to the monitor; he determined that Glad was in an offside position. It couldn’t be much – a toe? a hair out of place? a slight incline? – but that was enough for him to deny the goal, much to the chagrin of the RSL team.

“It wasn’t clear and obvious,” Juarez said. “One of the most experienced linemen in the league hasn’t raised that flag. I’ve seen it a couple of times. I mean, come on, it’s not clear and obvious.”

The “clear and obvious” criterion is what RSL struggled to follow the game with. For Real Salt Lake, the replay did not show this to be an obvious mistake by the officials squad. It was close – really close – and Juarez and his team felt that such a close call shouldn’t have been changed.

“I have no idea,” Rubin said. “I’m still so confused.… The reason the goals are denied is clear and obvious. And I don’t know what the fine is for, for talking about the referees, but there have been some clear and obvious appeals against we who haven’t been called and are called for one today. It hurts us. “

However, VAR was not done playing with RSL’s emotions.

In the second half, after Colorado came back with two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead, RSL looked to have a golden chance at the equalizer.

Damir Kreilach was knocked down in the penalty area as he tried to retrieve a cross. It was a clear and unmistakable foul, but it was déjà vu for RSL when the referee signaled again for VAR.

He went to the monitor and saw Kreilach in an offside position before the foul was committed. This meant no penalty.

Adding to RSL’s frustration was the fact that Juarez and Cie felt they had played one of their best games of the season. RSL controlled possession much of the night and always generated strong scoring chances. Those finally came to fruition – for real this time – in the 51st minute when Rusnak passed Aaron Herrera into the top corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.

“Our guys were so brave,” Juarez said. “We insisted, we didn’t let them stall us for long periods of time, we were dynamic.”

Colorado equalized in the 64th minute when Diego Rubio took the lead from a corner and sent it past Andrew Putna, who replaced Zac MacMath after injuring his right knee in the first half.

Seven minutes later, Colorado’s Mark-Anthony Kaye ran unmarked into the box and headed for the score.

With the exception of those 10 minutes or so, RSL was the better team. This made the bad luck with VAR even more difficult to swallow.

“I thought they deserved more and they deserved more,” Juarez said. “I thought it was a fantastic display. We have to carry that energy to the next games.”

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion