So what happened there? A sequence of three controversial events stacked up to cause much of the Toyota Park crowd to boo referee Ismail Elfath and crew as they went into the interval.
With the teams locked at 1-1, Patrick Nyarko broke through the New England backline and was thought to have won a penalty just as the clock hit 44:00 after contact with Revolution defender Jose Goncalves at the top of the box.
Elfath waved play on much to the chagrin of players and fans alike but okay, no big deal...
Maybe its conjecture but the play seemed to throw Elfath off his game.
He likely would have signaled the amount of stoppage time or communicated via radio headset to fourth official Silviu Petrescu right after that play but with some jeers raining down and the signal to play on, perhaps he forgot? Perhaps the communication wasn’t received on the sidelilne?
Either way the amount of stoppage time was never put up on the board by Petrescu and as a result, never announced in-stadium. It did however make its way into the broadcast though how, I’m still trying to deduce as no official number was ever given.
In the end, we probably won’t know why it didn’t happen as Elfath was asked via pool reporter post-game why the fourth official didn’t raise the board to signal stoppage time.
The somewhat avoidant response was, “The priority of the fourth official is to keep order in the technical area.”
Which seems to suggest Petrescu was too busy dealing with both team's coaching staffs to raise the board during any point of what ended up being three additional minutes of stoppage time. Without directly answering the question though, Elfath continues to leave the incident open for interpretation.
If it’s safe for me to put my editorial hat on: The Pool Reporter system is a definite step forward for the league and Professional Referees Organization but its only as good as the referees being honest enough to answer the question being asked.
Though there's nothing specific about the raising of the stoppage time signal in the Laws of the Game, the signal is something universally expected at the international and professional level.
Even if there was chaos for three minutes in the technical area (which would be an overstatement), the job of the fourth official is also to inform the players, coaches and those in attendance what that number is.
That didn't occur unfortunately.
With no stoppage time signaled, you could make a case that the half should have ended right when the clock struck 45:00. It didn’t, and in fact saw New England score their second go-ahead goal of the night when Saer Sene received a pass from Dimitry Imbongo and finished past Johnson to make it 2-1.
Should the goal have stood? Upon further review, absolutely not...
Off the goal kick in which Bobby Shuttleworth found Imbongo, the Congolese forward was aided by the use of his hand to settle the ball before spraying towards goal and laying off for Sene.
There’s the old adage that you should play to hear the whistle but looking back on the series of events, it seems the teams should have gone into halftime locked 1-1.
Where do we go from here?
There’s no sour grapes as the Fire overcame the controversy to take a 3-2 win in dramatic fashion at home over New England. The victory sees the team into a playoff position for the first time this season, something unthinkable following the side's 2-7-1 start to the season.
Just as good, the last two games between these two clubs seem to show a revival in the once heated rivalry between the sides.
On to the next one at Columbus.