In the 35th minute of Saturday’s game between the New England Revolution and Toronto FC, Jose Goncalves pushed forward and played the ball to Chris Tierney. The moment prompted Toronto players to raise their hands to indicate offside, but center referee Ricardo Salazar allowed play to continue. Protests from Toronto persisted as Tierney set up Lee Nguyen to score his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
The tally was shrouded in controversy because the assistant referee used his flag to signify that Tierney was in an offside position. The center referee waived off the infraction, however, because he believed that Dominic Oduro had intentionally flicked the ball backwards.
The moment became a topic of conversation after the game with Toronto defender Steven Caldwell calling the decision "utterly disappointing." Meanwhile, Toronto head coach Greg Vanney made comparisons to a youth soccer game.
"I can’t say anything other than I’ve seen U-12 referees make that call and that’s an embarrassment," Vanney told media after the game.
Nguyen acknowledged that there was a lot of confusion during the buildup to the goal, saying that he decided to play on because he hadn’t heard a whistle. The resolve led to Nguyen scoring his ninth game-winning goal of the year and it was something that was lauded by Revolution head coach Jay Heaps.
"We want our guys to finish up plays, we hate when guys put their arms up," Heaps commented. "You’ve got to finish on the whistle and we did and I’m proud of our guys for that."
The goal was deflating for the visitors, who had actually controlled the majority of possession up to that point. The visitors could’ve been up a goal if Gilberto’s shot in the 9th minute hadn’t hit the crossbar. In the end, Toronto would control 59.2% of possession and have four shots on frame.
Although there are positives for Toronto to take away from the game, the club, who hasn’t qualified for playoffs in their eight years of existence, hoped to end their trying season with a win.
"The guys are tired of taking little positives," Vanney said. "They want a result. At the end of the day, they’re extremely frustrated that they put out a good effort and sometimes it’s for naught because things that are out of your control."