Footballing history was made on Friday night in the United Soccer League when video assistant referees (VAR) were used for the first time in a competitive fixture.
Two MLS reserve teams New York Red Bulls II and Orlando City B utilised FIFA’s video assistant referee initiative during their game which New York won 5-1.
The VAR automatically reviews every goal, every red card and all penalties, and communicates directly with the head referee, who ultimately decides whether to resort to the monitor.
The final call on video reviews always belong to the head referee.
And, once in each half referee Ismail Elfath made use of the video screen behind the goal, which was manned by review assistants. In both instances, Elfath needed just a few moments to communicate with the VAR, located in a mobile truck on Red Bull Arena property.
And both times, Elfath and the VAR – overseen by PRO referee Allen Chapman – worked together to make a quick, precise call.
“The VAR first had to identify if it was a penalty kick or a free kick outside the box, looking at both some pulling and a trip,” David Elleray, the Technical Director of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), told MLSsoccer.com. “Initially, Elfath correctly called the foul outside the box, which was upheld by the replay.”
Elfath also used video review in stoppage time when Red Bulls II forward Zoumana Simpara scored from a rebound off the post. Chapman immediately reviewed the goal. Elfath had communicated to him that Simpara might have been offside.
Within moments, Chapman made the review and communicated to Elfath that Simpara was not offside and the goal stood to cap a fine first night for the VAR.
“I’d give it a very high grade,” Elleray added.