In the second half of this MLS season, Video Assisted Referees or VAR will be introduced in every match which will likely lead to game-changing decisions. This system was tested during the preseason and had very impactful outcomes of players being sent off for actions behind the play. Notably, David Villa was one of the first victims as he was sent off for slapping the face of Houston Dynamo defender A.J DeLaGarza in a preseason game. Initially, given a yellow card for his action, the referee turned to the VAR which led to a red card towards David Villa.
While this system will only be implemented as of Saturday, August 5th, the MLS has begun testing as was the case in Montreal this weekend. The simulation that took place gathered information as part of the testing process but referee Jair Marrufo and his team could not access this information as of yet.
The VAR will be used to review goals and observing any violations that took place leading up to the goal; fouls, offside, ball not crossing the line, etc. Penalty decisions that are missed or not called properly are another item possible for review. Red card decisions, either if they are too harsh or if they are missed by the team of referees. On the other hand, second yellow cards are not reviewable. The last item that can be analyzed using VAR is mistaken identity; if a card is issued to the wrong player. Ultimately, the reviews can only be requested by the referee and his team and not by the coaches as we see in other sports.
One problem that may come up is that the final decision even upon review is dependent on the referee. If the referee still chooses that there is not enough proof, he may not overturn the goal or
issue the red card. While fewer calls will be questioned, fans will forever find a reason to blame the referees.
It is only the beginning of the utilization of this new tool and mistakes will likely be made but the advancements that this system will allow are immense. Looking at historic goals and wins, it becomes clear that with the VAR calls could have gone differently and so could have the outcome of some games. For example, Ronaldo’s questionable offside goals against Bayern or even Thierry Henry’s handball that led to the game-winning goal against Ireland helping France qualify for the 2010 World Cup. These types of missed calls will hopefully be overturned by referees but the decision will still be dependent on their judgment.