New England Soccer Today

The Curious Case of the Goal that Wasn’t

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s fair to say few, if any, of the 17,865 on hand for Saturday’s Revolution-Orlando City match had ever witnessed anything like what unfolded in the 43rd minute.

With the hosts ahead 1-0, Teal Bunbury connected with Lee Nguyen deep in Orlando City territory before the latter blasted a beautiful ball through to make it a 2-0 match. Or so everyone thought – including referee Robert Sibiga.

But well after the handshakes were exchanged and the Lions restarted, Sibiga inconspicuously waved off the goal after video assistant referee (VAR) Mark Geiger – yes, that Mark Geiger, Revs fans – reviewed the play, which showed Bunbury was about 10 yards offside before he put himself in position to retrieve Chris Tierney’s long ball.

For a good minute or so, the players, the coaching staff, the fans, and even the Musket Men, whose rifle fire often confirms a good strike, were puzzled.

No goal. Yeah, awkward.

“I didn’t realize when they actually take away a goal that was that long and we celebrated and we got back to position,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “Then it was a really quick, oh, goal didn’t count, and we’re on to the next play. So, there’s not a lot of time to digest that. Those are tough moments.”

Indeed, had Nguyen’s strike counted, the Revolution would’ve marched into the break with a healthy lead rather than holding a narrow margin. And the timing of it – moments before the halftime whistle – could’ve given the hosts an added boost.

But it was not meant to be.

“There’s that love/hate relationship with VAR,” Nguyen quipped. “But it was the right decision, and we have to accept it but hey, it goes both ways.”

Of course, it’s easy to shrug off the goal that wasn’t when the final score is 4-0 in your favor. Well, that and the fact that the VAR got it right.

Even so, Heaps said the awkward call to redesignate the score mentally tested his team.

“It’s an added element of being able to deal with the ups and downs of a game and there are a lot of them in every game,” Heaps said. “But this one, it’s the first time it happened to us.”

Despite having to wait until the 75th minute for the Revolution score a legit second goal, Heaps liked the way his team responded to the officiating hiccup.

“I thought our guys rallied,” Heaps said. “I think getting in at halftime and having a moment to be able to talk about it and get ourselves ready. Say hey, look we’re back in this. We had a really good talk at halftime. Guys were really engaged.”

Heaps maintained his support for VAR after the match, which is consistent with the coach’s longheld belief in replay getting it right, though he did call Nguyen’s non-goal “a gut punch.”

As for Nguyen, well, he didn’t sound like a guy who’d lose any sleep about his first-class finish going to waste.

“I’ll take it as long as we get that 4-0 win anyway,” Nguyen said with a laugh.

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