Washington, DC—Rain brewed on and off over Audi Field and set the tone for a storm within it. The first half of the Atlantic Cup unfolded with a player from each team sent off. DC United’s Wayne Rooney received a straight red card for hands to the face. In first half stoppage time, Amro Tarek received his second yellow card for tackling Paul Arriola from behind and was sent off for the Red Bulls.
The game began with Red Bulls in the DC United half. Scattered DC defending and a failed clearance yielded the first NY goal. Kaku buried a rebound in the left corner in just the 6thminute.
United Coach Ben Olsen voiced his frustration with the lethargic start—“we didn’t show up for about 10, 15 minutes…I’m not sure how we didn’t understand what it was going to take to get through those early minutes against them.”
In a jolting turn, Wayne Rooney received a red card in the 24th. On a New York corner, he turned, lunging with his arms while eyes watched the ball, and hit the face of Cristian Cásseres Jr. Referee Ismail Elfath issued the red card for hands to the face.
Later in the first half, Elfath deemed a handball in the Red Bulls penalty area by Rece Buckmaster inadvertent, drawing derision from the nearby supporters’ section. In the second half he awarded a Red Bulls penalty kick for a trip in the box on Michael Murillo, making fans irate.
Running vertically through the box, Murillo fell to the ground after Titi Rodriguez clipped his trailing heel. Elfath immediately pointed to the spot. After a booth review the penalty stood. Daniel Royer converted to make the score 2-1.
Discussion of MLS refereeing and VAR became a topic again. Olsen commented “he doesn’t need to blow the whistle. VAR’s there. Wait, and then you can decide after that. But he gets himself in trouble because he blows the whistle.”
The IFAB Laws state VAR can be used for a “penalty kick incorrectly awarded,” but there was not enough evidence of a ‘clear and obvious error’ to overturn the decision. Had the whistle not been blown, the question would be whether the severity of infraction warranted a penalty kick.
This questioning of refereeing and VAR has occurred throughout MLS media this year, particularly regarding reversal of ‘clear and obvious errors’ and allowing plays to continue before whistling a stoppage. Olsen elaborated in this case, “second yellow, dive, or PK? Big, big moment in the game, and I thought he got it wrong.”
DC United’s play improved after Rooney’s ejection, and the 10-on-10 second half provided more open play from both teams. Ola Kamara, in his second match for DC, curled in a superb left-bending cross around Luis Robles into the upper 90 in the 55th.
But minutes later the penalty kick put New York ahead for good. Multiple late chances for DC fell short, and New York closed out the match 2-1 to take this turbulent iteration of the Atlantic Cup.
Next, DC travel to Philadelphia to take on the Union Saturday, August 24 at 7:30 PM ET. NY plays NYCFC the same day at 7:00 PM ET at Yankee Stadium.