Gregg Berhalter was not happy on Saturday night. Not only had he just watched his Columbus Crew SC side lose 2-0 to Los Angeles Football Club, conceding two goals in the first eight minutes of the match, but he was also not pleased with a few calls in the game.
“I think we were unfortunate today with a couple of decisions that could’ve gone our way but didn’t,” Berhalter told reporters following the loss. “Notably the second goal, to me, the player was in an offside position and on our goal, it’s hard to see how the players are offside. You have two instances that changed the game.”
The two moments that Berhalter is addressing is the Adama Diomande goal in the eighth minute where the forward attempted to come back from an offside position before receiving a pass that led to a goal and a 69th minute call where Federico Higuain was ruled offside after heading home a cross from Artur. It is clear to see why Berhalter is upset with these calls, as they both had a big impact on the outcome of the match.
On Monday, after over 24 hours for the Crew SC head coach to go back and review the tape, Berhalter did not back down from his postgame comments. Rather he had more issues with the officiating from the match. Not only did Berhalter stand by what he said about the poorly handled offside calls, but also pointed four moments where he thought the Black & Gold should have been awarded penalty kicks.
“So Johnny (Mensah), the corner kick that he got pushed on as he’s heading it, Gyasi (Zardes) shoots, it hits (Walker) Zimmerman in the arm and Pedro (Santos) was fouled twice, one by (Lee) Nguyen and one by (Jordan) Harvey in the penalty box,” Berhalter said.
It’s important to note that Berhalter is not the type to complain about officials. Over his tenure in Columbus, he’s made a handful of on-the-record comments about referees, but more often than not refrains to comment on how any given game was officiated. This means that when he does, it carries some weight and typically he has a good point.
“I just thought it was an odd game,” he continued. “And then Diomande’s chance in the second half, offside. It was just odd how you have (eight) decisions — and even the header on the set piece that they have, he’s offside on that. And I don’t know if it went out for a goal kick that they didn’t call it. But you’re talking about eight decisions, I don’t want to get into that it was the referee, but you have eight decisions and all eight of them went against us. That’s odd.”
Major League Soccer was one of the pioneers in trying to avoid controversy when it comes to officiating, introducing Video Assistant Review last season. VAR has expanded to leagues around the world and is currently being used in the World Cup. While Berhalter wasn’t sure if any of these plays were checked in the review booth by Alex Chilowicz — he said he was going to have further conversations with MLS — none were looked at a second time by center referee Kevin Stott.
Although he was unhappy with the decisions on these plays, Berhalter did want to make it clear that he did not blame the referees for Crew SC losing the match.
“I don’t want to make excuses for our group and say it was the referees because it was us,” he said. “I want to be clear with that.
“We weren’t great tonight at all. Based on the performance, LAFC deserved to win the game, but you’d like to be on the right end of a couple decisions every now and then.”
Columbus still allowed a strange goal from a free kick — something Berhalter addressed with backup goalkeeper Jon Kempin, who started in place of the injured Zack Steffen — in the fourth minute and couldn’t put more than one of the team’s 10 shots on frame.
“To me it was the final moment a number of times; not just one time,” Berhalter said of his team. “I have 10, 12 clips of we’re in decent positions. If we make a smarter pass, we could really hurt the opponent, and we just didn’t do it. What I found is more often than not we were making the wrong decision in and around the penalty box.”
After going nine games without a loss, Crew SC has now suffered back-to-back 2-0 defeats. The Black & Gold’s last victory came on May 19 in a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution. While officials may have played a part in the loss to LAFC, Columbus has other issues to figure, in which Berhalter is well aware.