New England Soccer Today

Heaps Bemoans Use of VAR in Thrashing

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Jay Heaps had never seen anything like it. And it’s safe to say few soccer fans had, either.

In a wild first half that Atlanta dominated from the start, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Ted Unkel was at the center of two calls that profoundly impacted the Revolution’s fortunes in Wednesday’s 7-0 defeat to the expansion side.

In the 16th minute, referee Baldomero Toledo sent off Xavier Kouassi after consulting with Unkel. Then, in the 37th minute, Toledo went to the tablet again before citing Antonio Delamea for a handball in the area, which led to the defender’s dismissal.

“I don’t think you’re going to see more (matches) like this (one),” Heaps told the media after the match. “With the VAR, I feel like they overstepped what I think they should be doing.”

VAR was officially instituted on Aug. 4 to review game-changing plays such as goals, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity. Once a play is under review, the referee also has the discretion to adjust any call made during that sequence.

On the play that prompted the red card to Kouassi, the Revolution midfielder put his studs into the left calf Leandro González Pirez. Initially, only a foul was called on Kouassi as Pirez grabbed his leg in pain.

But moments later, Toledo got the signal from Unkel, and after the man in the middle reviewed the replay, he sent off Kouassi.

“There have been challenges I’ve seen over the course of the first couple weeks that were very similar to that one, not VARed, and moved on,” Heaps said. “Having seen this one, it’s a little bit debatable, a little bit harsh at the time.”

But Kouassi wasn’t the only Revolution player caught on camera. With halftime right around the corner, Delamea was charged with a handball in the box after Josef Martinez’s shot caromed off the defender’s left arm right in front of goal.

Again, the play continued without incident before it was eventually cleared over the line. But during the stoppage, Toledo once again went to the tape and moments later, issued a double-whammy for the Revolution: a penalty kick, and another dismissal, this time to Delamea.

Wednesday’s match was the second one in which the Revolution came out on the wrong end of a replay review.

Two weeks ago against Orlando City, Lee Nguyen had a goal nullified after the VAR determined that teammate Teal Bunbury was in an offside position on the buildup.

Ironically, Heaps has been a fervent supporter of video replay for years. But following Wednesday’s debacle, it’s fair to say he hasn’t been thrilled with the early returns.

“It is what it is,” Heaps said. “It’s a new age and new era, it’s not pleasant, and we learned our lesson.”

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