Dave Romney of the LA Galaxy celebrates his goal against La Maquina in the 2016 US Open Cup. Teammate Jose Villarreal is shown injured in the background. Photo: LA Galaxy
UPDATE (June 28, 2016): TheCup.us has learned the protest by La Maquina has been denied. The club appealed the decision but it was unsuccessful.
The United Premier Soccer League (UPSL), on behalf of one of its member clubs La Maquina, has filed an appeal with the US Soccer Federation, requesting a replay of its Fourth Round Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
A copy of the appeal, acquired by TheCup.us, shows that the letter of protest is signed by league commissioner Yan Skwara, alleges the “referee’s conduct was so outstandingly inappropriate that it is obviously against the good of the game.” La Maquina lost 4-1 to a 10-man Galaxy side Tuesday night in Carson, Calif.
“The behavior and performance of the referee were egregious and alarming and there are 2 incidents of note that were critical to the outcome of the match and that unfairly determined the result,” the complaint continues. “His actions and conduct were contrary to the good of the game and we respectfully request a replay of this game.”
The main incident in question took place in the opening minutes of extra time. The Galaxy earned a free kick just outside the penalty area when Jose Villarreal was fouled. The collision carried him into the box and he appeared to need medical attention based on the apparent pain he was in, laying on his back with teammate Jack McBean helping him stretch out his leg.
While La Maquina and other Galaxy players stood around catching their breath and waiting for Villarreal to be tended to, Baggio Husidic stood over the free kick. Since the Galaxy did not ask center referee Ramon Hernandez to move their opponents the minimum 10 yards away from the ball, Husidic was, by rule, allowed to play a quick restart. He noticed Dave Romney standing unmarked on the left side of the penalty area and sent the ball to him and Romney struck it past a helpless Luis Sosa in goal to give the MLS side a 2-1 lead. The confused players for La Maquina were almost all standing around the injured Villarreal and scrambled to defend Romney’s shot but they were far too late.
Photo: LA Galaxy
“[The referee] goes … [shrugs his shoulders] so I kicked out, passed to the left,” Husidic said. “I didn’t ask for a whistle, told the ref I wasn’t going to ask for a whistle, and he said ‘OK.’”
Even the goalscorer was confused by what happened.
“Am I allowed to shoot this? Is this really real?,” Romney said after the match. “I just got it on my right foot and tucked it away.”
Here is the description of the incident from La Maquina’s complaint:
“There was a huddle of players from both sets of teams, and both Galaxy and La Maquina players went to the fallen player’s aid as he was clearly injured. At this time, the referee told the players to resume play on his whistle. As the players milled about, and the Galaxy player received treatment on the ground from fellow players, a Galaxy player moved the ball behind the referee (who was still standing behind the spot of the foul that he ran to and designated himself) and passed to his teammate across the box who then proceeded to score a goal as the La Maquina keeper made a late and half-hearted attempt to save the shot as he was in shock that play was happening and fully expected that play would be called back; AS DID EVERYONE ELSE IN THE STADIUM.”
WATCH THE ENTIRE PLAY (Beginning at 2:32:40)
The story has received a lot of attention in the days following the incident. It was posted by Deadspin and then was even featured in a brief segment on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.”
That was not the only incident that was included in the protest.
“Obviously, there was a lot of bad [calls] by the ref. We kind of knew it was going to go south by about the 80th minute,” Edson Martinez, La Maquina’s assistant coach told TheCup.us. “One of our players got elbowed from behind and the fourth official saw it and he called over the referee. [The fourth official] told us it was a straight red.”
However, the red card was not given by Hernandez, who instead issued yellows to both La Maquina and Galaxy players involved.
“It killed the team’s spirit,” Martinez added. “Honestly? We would have won that game. We were tired, but we had the momentum.”
According to the written protest, they are further convinced that an error was made because, as they claim, the fourth official and the match commissioner were “verbally and visibly apologetic to La Maquina for the referee’s performance.”
According to Skwara, the controversy on the goal comes down to player safety (Villarreal was ignored and could have been seriously injured — the center official did not get a closer look to determine this) and if Hernandez told the players from La Maquina that play would start “on my whistle,” as is stated in the protest.
“La Maquina was toe to toe [with the Galaxy] until this occurred and obviously it shook them to have a goal of this nature handed to the Galaxy .. in overtime,” Skwara said. “I think any opposing team in this scenario would be livid and that’s an understatement.
“We will see what US Soccer has to say,” he added. “It’s not a good example of sportsmanship and certainly beyond poor officiating.”
The team expects to have an answer from the federation in the next 24-48 hours. US Soccer spokesperson Neil Buethe says the incident “will be reviewed very soon.”
According to TheCup.us records, the US Open Cup has never had a replay ordered in the Modern Era (1995-present) as a result of a referee’s error or poor performance.