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Video review helps Columbus Crew SC but hurts the beautiful game

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Crew SC fans got the first taste of the good and bad of VAR Wednesday night.

It’s been two week for Major League Soccer’s video review and the kinks are still be worked out.

On Saturday, Columbus Crew SC were on the wrong side, from a Black & Gold perspective, of the review system as right back Harrison Afful was sent off after it was deemed he elbowed Orlando City’s Yoshi Yuton in the second half of the 1-1 draw.

In Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy, Crew SC were the benefactors of the review. Not once, not twice, but three times.

“It was crazy, and just crazy to think that three calls were corrected,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match.

“I think it’s strange that it all happened in one game. We may not get one our way for the rest of the season.”

Within a 10-minute window, center referee Sorin Stoica, along with Video Assistant Review official Hilario Grajeda, reviewed three potentially game-changing plays.

The first was the 18th minute red card to Galaxy left back Ashley Cole who was judged to have fouled Columbus winger Pedro Santos at the top of the penalty area and was sent off for a “serious foul.” Review upheld that decision.

Three minutes later, Stoica called a foul for Crew SC just outside the penalty area. Grajeda watched it again from the review booth and communicated down to the center official that the foul in fact occurred inside the 18-yard box, giving the Black & Gold a penalty kick.

Five minutes after that, Daniel Steres headed a corner kick into the net, but after the celebrations, it was deemed his teammate, Joao Pedro, was in an offside position and actually made contact with the ball. Again, this came from the review booth.

Three calls reviewed, all advantage Crew SC.

“It was a little weird,” winger Justin Meram said of the short stretch. “I don’t mind it when it’s in my favor. Obviously on Saturday it wasn’t, but that’s why they installed VAR and clearly the refs can’t see everything and those were clear decisions and that’s just the way the game goes.”

What made it frustrating for the players, and a concern of video review in soccer, was the stop-and-start nature of the game over that time. Obviously seeing three reviews in 10 minutes isn’t likely to happen often, but it did in this contest and hurt the momentum Columbus built early in the half.

With that said, the video review system is meant to get the calls correct and the Black & Gold benefitted from all three.

“The rhythm is a little bit strange with that VAR thing, but I think getting the calls right is of course important,” forward Ola Kamara said. “I think we’ll see how it turns out. But in the first half, it was a lot.”

“It does slow the game down, but I think in the long run he gets the calls right,” Crew SC captain Wil Trapp agreed. “For them, unfortunately, there were two calls go against them, but we had one call go for us too. It’s one of those where you take the time to get it right and I don’t think players can be too upset about that.”

Of course, it would be nice if Stoica, and other MLS referees along with their assistants, could get more calls correct when seeing the play live to decrease the amount of reviews. That is of course what they are paid to do.

“You’d like to see the ref make the right decision and not go to VAR every time,” Meram said, “but he has that confidence to go there and review it.”

We’ll call it an insurance blanket.