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Impassioned & Angry, Porter Blasts CONCACAF In Incredible Outburst

“It’s a joke!” declares Porter, four times...

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Caleb Porter wasn’t happy with the referee at last night’s big continental quarter-final.
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Caleb Porter will do well do dodge sanction after a remarkable impassioned outburst against Concacaf officialdom following his side’s 2-2 draw with Monterrey in the CCL quarter-final first leg last night in Columbus.

The interview is available on the CONCACAF website, but not in its entirety. The juicy parts are left out and finish with Porter getting up and leaving after his tirade without taking questions from the assembled media.

To kick things off the Crew boss was asked by CONCACAF’s video-conference host to speak about the game. It was the last question he faced.

And he didn’t miss and hit the wall...

After explaining how he was proud of his team for taking the game to the Mexicans and at how MLS clubs have closed the gap on its LigaMX counterparts, he questioned several aspects of the refereeing performance and had a go at CONCACAF officialdom in general.

Porter’s first issue surrounded the incident when his striker Gyasi Zardes and the Mexican goalkeeper clashed as Zardes put the ball wide from a right-wing cross. “It was a clear pk. If that’s not a penalty-kick I don’t know what is. Honestly I have no idea how that doesn’t get reviewed.”

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Zardes and Cardenas collide. Columbus coach Caleb Porter was infuriated a penalty wasn’t awarded.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Crew coach felt his side not only “... matched a very good team but exceeded what they were doing and deserved more”, as Costa Rican referee Juan Calderon remained under the Porter microscope.

“The sad part was the officiating. I know everybody hates it when coaches talk about officials, but it’s a joke. It’s a joke! How Lucas Zelarayan gets a yellow card? No idea. They had six or seven fouls worse than the foul he had and no card. Yet he gets a yellow card. Somebody explain that to me!

“Somebody explain to me how Gyasi’s play when he gets cleaned out by the ‘keeper is not a penalty kick, and not even reviewed?

“Can someone explain to me... please explain to me... go back and watch the goal that we scored, watch it! How is that clear and obvious overturned offsides?

“I watched it every angle. I paused it, stopped it. I always try to be objective in these moments.” Then fighting emotion and raising his voice to underline his point Porter declares, “It’s not off!”

“How do they overturn that call? And at the end there’s a clear handball at the sideline before they score a goal. It’s a joke! And it’s sad. It’s sad when you have a team, like our club that has desire and ambition that wants to win this tournament and advance, and facing off against another quality team, it’s tainted.

“It’s tainted by a VAR last minute decision thrown out there, not organized clearly. There’s no... You have a guy in the booth that’s never worked with the officiating crew. I knew right when they said it was going to be thrown together last minute that it was going to be a disaster. How can they do that?”

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Monterrey at Columbus Crew SC
Porter was also annoyed by the first-half yellow card taken by Lucas Zalarayan, when “... they had six or seven worse fouls [than Zelarayan’s] and no card.”
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Becoming more angry Porter continued, “Shame on CONCACAF for that. That is absolutely ridiculous. You have an American in the VAR booth who’s never worked with the officiating crew. There’s no understanding. There’s no relationship.

“And that’s the other sad part... is we get screwed on two calls, a penalty clear, and an offsides that’s not offside, that we score a fair goal... and it’s in America. What would happen if it was in Mexico and it’s a Mexican in the VAR booth? I think we all know. It’s ridiculous!

“I’ll close with, I’m proud of my team, I’m proud how we played, I love our aggressiveness and even though we didn’t get the win, I’m happy with what they did today. And they deserved more.

“I’m sad for them and I can’t sit up here and say nothing, because I’ve watched this tournament for years and years and years, I’ve watched this league for years and years and years, and everybody talks about how no American team has beaten a LigaMX team to win the tournament blah, bah, blah. Well, why don’t they get the freakin’ officiating sorted out? Why don’t they get that sorted out?

“You’ve got good teams competing in a tournament. Why don’t they get the officiating sorted out? It’s a joke!”

With that, clearly angered and frustrated, Porter left the video-conference without taking journalist’s questions.

It’s often not a good time to unload your grievances post-match, and Porter may well regret many of his comments in the cold light of day, this morning.

It’s clear he feels injustices occurred, but the wisdom of not keeping counsel in the heat of the moment must be queried, at least when calling into question the integrity of not only both the organizing body and the referee but also that of Mexican officialdom (referring to the potential of having a Mexican in the VAR booth).

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
The moment when Columbus Crew thought Bradley Wright-Phillips had headed them into a 2-1 lead. The goal was overturned for offside further incensing Porter.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It really was an extraordinary and emotional outburst, fascinating to watch, as the Crew coach unloaded raw, unfiltered feelings.

On the penalty decision when Vardes and Cardenas the Monterrey ‘keeper clashed, it would’ve been harsh to award a spot-kick. It was a 50-50 coming together of the players, momentum determining contact after Zardes stretching, placed the ball wide. There was certainly no attempt by either man to foul. Neither player was really in control. I felt the officials got it right. It certainly wasn’t a clear and obvious error.

On the Bradley Wright-Phillips disallowed goal, I have slightly more sympathy with Porter, but not enough to agree with his clearly emphatic view.

With the naked eye in real time it looked a legitimate goal. With the replay (and probably the pictures the VAR ref was screening) Josh Williams’ shoulder looked offside as he advanced on goal before heading across into Wright-Phillips’ path. By the absolute letter of black and white, technology law, it was indeed offside.

This is a concept we’ve all continually watched English Premier League, particularly, and MLS officialdom wrestle with since VAR was introduced. And it infuriates the hell out of everyone, including Caleb Porter last night.

Was it a clear and obvious error by the on-field officials? Probably not, but that takes us into an entirely different realm.

In the spirit of the laws of the game, it’s a goal. Technically was it offside? Yes, I’m afraid it was...

Welcome to VAR, CONCACAF!

I am surprised though that Porter couldn’t acknowledge that same potential after watching, pausing and stopping the re-runs.

The fact he remained intransigent on the matter affects the credibility of anything else he may have perceived correctly during a remarkable post-match presser.



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