A controversial night for the LA Galaxy ends with another loss to the Colorado Rapids.
Let’s be very honest. The LA Galaxy didn’t deserve to beat the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night. But they definitely didn’t deserve to lose that game.
And the fact that it was stolen from them in a 2-1 loss in front of 10,945 people in Commerce City, Colorado – yes, stolen – by a refereeing crew who didn’t exactly drape themselves in officiating glory, makes the result tough to swallow.
In most games that end with just a goal separating the two teams, there’s usually a call for some accountability. Yes, Jorgen Skjelvik switched off during the 79th-minute goal by Colorado’s Cole Bassett. It’s something he has a history of doing and something that should end his time in LA after this season.
And yes, the Galaxy’s play through the middle of the park was slow, sloppy, and ineffective to say the least. But when you’re missing players like Jonathan dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget, you should probably expect that.
And yes, the finishing on the night could have been better as well. Favio Alvarez, Cristian Pavon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Joe Corona all had good chances to score with none of them finding the back of the net. And Rolf Feltscher missed a header from three yards away; more on that later.
But having said all that, this game, played between two teams who were shorthanded thanks to the international break Major League Soccer is determined to play through, was mostly decided by Referee Fotis Bazakos and VAR official Alejandro Mariscal.
In the 85th-minute Bazakos whistled for a penalty kick against the Galaxy when Andre Shinyashiki dribbled into the box and then fell over.
And “fell over” is the only way to explain the call as replays showed there was no foot contact from either substitute Emil Cuello or Galaxy goalscorer Giancarlo Gonzalez (who had scored a header on a set piece in the 82nd minute) and certainly not enough arm contact to bring him down.
Shinyashiki simply went down on his own accord after dribbling into the end line.
“The reasoning behind the penalty kick (to Shinyashiki) was a tripping (foul),” Bazakos said. “That was kind of easy.”
He attributed it to a tripping foul – a foul that he did not review and a foul that was either confirmed by, or missed by, Mariscal in the VAR video booth. And calling it “easy” only went on to prove he hadn’t seen the replay.
The simple fact is he never saw it; he just missed it.
The broadcast replays showed no contact besides some flailing arms. Even when there’s a hint of a trip by Gonzalez, another angle clears the two feet from each other. But the penalty was converted by Nicolas Mezquida with Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham getting a fingertip to it as it slid under his outstretched hands.
That gave the Rapids their second lead of the night and would be the eventual game-winner.
But the controversy was really just beginning.
In the second minute of what was supposed to be four minutes of added time, Pavon was sent off with a red card for an off-balance tackle on Shinyashiki who was trying to waste time in the corner.
Pavon only made it to the sideline before being held up by the fourth official.
Pavon’s ejection was turned into a yellow card with Bazakos saying after the game that “when you see it on the video, it’s really fast. But you can stop it and see it’s the side of the foot and not the studs straight on.
“That’s really the reason that we changed it.”
But while the officials did eventually get that call right, they missed the most uncomplicated call of the night.
Now in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Pavon combined with Cuello to launch a cross towards the back post. Ibrahimovic went to meet the ball with his head but found it with his foot instead and redirected it back across the face of goal where Feltscher was floating into the six-yard box.
Feltscher’s head got to the ball a millisecond before Colorado defender Danny Wilson kicked him in the face.
No, you didn’t read that wrong, Feltscher was kicked in the face just a fraction of a second after his head made contact with the ball. The header went just wide of the far post – he should have finished it.
But when you’re about to be kicked in the face, you tend to miss things.
Bazakos made no call besides a Colorado goal kick. Even with Fetlscher writhing around on the ground holding his head. Then, just seconds before Colorado took the goal kick, Bazakos went to the VAR monitor to look at what was an obvious foul.
But here’s the thing about obvious things. To some, they’re just not that obvious.
“The LA player beats him to the ball,” Bazaos told pool reporters after the game. “And so there’s some contact afterward. But it wouldn’t be fair to come back and give a penalty.”
“Some contact” in this instance, is Feltscher getting kicked in the face. And when a referee decides to not protect players because of someone getting kicked in the face, and instead call it a “fair” challenge, then everyone has lost the plot.
And the Galaxy have lost the game.
Still sitting in eighth place – just one point out of the playoffs – the Galaxy’s season isn’t over. With five games remaining (three at home) the club can still earn up to 15 points.
But with their recent form – just two wins in their last nine games – it’s hard to feel confident coming down this final stretch.
The Galaxy didn’t play well tonight. You can blame that on the altitude, on missing some key players, and on both a good game from Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin and a lousy night of finishing.
Typically reporters are reticent to just point the blame at the officiating – there are so many factors that go into a game. But the Galaxy didn’t play bad enough to lose this game. But they did.
And on this night, and this night only, you can point directly at the entire officiating crew.
And the worst part is it could keep the Galaxy out of the playoffs.