|photo by Matt Kremkau
by Daniel Feuerstein
The New York Red Bulls had a hell of a match against FC Cincinnati in the 5th Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. They showed to be the better side with plenty of attacking chances and showed some strong defensive moments, but this match went the full 120, and sadly, the Red Bulls fell in penalties 5-3 after a one-goal draw thru regulation and Extra Time.
Troy Lesense has brought back the confidence and the fighting spirit of this club with his four-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, till it was broken by the Orange & Blue of Ohio. Since the six-match suspension of Dante Vanzeir expired, he played a full match & a half in the league win over Montreal and this past match in the US Open Cup.
What he did towards the final moments in second-half stoppage time was truly to begin the healing process that was broken between him and the supporters. Scoring the big equalizer at the death to force the match into extra time. A long looping ball aimed toward Sean Nealis as he tried to head it to a teammate, was briefly cleared by a Cincinnati defender, but it went towards Vanzeir with a midair volley that bounced in front of the net and beat Alec Kann inside the far post.
Red Bull Arena erupted and a frenzy ensued by the South Ward. After everything that happened over a month and a half ago, that goal could be the start of a relationship that could be on its way to improving the relations with the fans. Yes his attempt in the penalty shootout was stopped, and that is an unfortunate thing, but right now there are plenty of positives with Vanzeir for over 120 minutes. He got down to business and he was hungry to get on the scoresheet in the Open Cup.
For the past two months, we have been discussing the poor job of officiating done by the PRO Referees department, as they have continued to fail the Red Bulls with their VAR decisions. As I have said, the club shouldn't have to worry or use that tool as a boost or confidence in their games to earn a result, but at the same time, they don't need that ineptitude to give them a defeat. They can do that all on their own.
But sadly they were screwed out of a potential penalty in extra time by the worst referee inside PRO and that is Fotis Bozakos. It's not just this one particular moment that continues to vex the Red Bulls when this man is the main official on the pitch to decide what or when to enforce the laws of the game, the truth is he is the most incompetent referee within the entire list. In fact, he makes Baldomero Toledo look like former Italian Referee Pierluigi Collina who was the best of the best in World Football.
He always finds a way to lose control of the match and makes baffling decisions either when he blows the whistle or doesn't blow the whistle for the foul. In the 94th minute of extra time, the Red Bulls were attacking the Cincinnati side of the field when a loose ball went inside the area. Luquinhas had tracked the ball, got inside the area, and was taken down by the defender. Bozakos never blew his whistle or pointed to the spot for the penalty.
The Red Bulls were livid, upset, and angry. Luquinhas who just returned from injury was down inside the area in pain, and the Cincinnati defender who had the look on his face that he knew he was in trouble was bailed out by Bozakos. There were only two ways to make the penalty call stand, either Bozakos should have called it correctly, or he should've asked his far-side assistant if he had a better view of it. Bozakos did neither. VAR is not available until the tournament gets to the Semi-Finals, which was just passed this January.
Bleacher Report/Turner Sports broadcasters Mike Watts & Devon Kerr were analyzing that sequence and even Kerr was saying that was a penalty, that moment for the club was ripped out to at least make an attempt to take a potential lead. Instead, the match remained level and went into the shootout. This is why Bozakos was lazy and has never done his job correctly. He is not the star of the show, Mark Geiger needs to have him re-learn the laws of the game and his mentality of officiating much better. He is actually bringing down the rest of the field of PRO.
No, I don't like discussing the referee and no I don't want to put the focus on them every single time a decision goes against the Red Bulls, but we can't ignore what has happened to the club this season, when a VAR decision that is clear and obvious in favor of the Red Bulls doesn't go their way or when a check is made, there is no signal to jog to the monitor to show why the foul on the play should've been looked at for a red card, or changing the color of the card from yellow to red.
But what I can't stand is an inept referee who continues to perform poorly, and he needs to either improve himself, or PRO needs to revoke his license and hammer home how to interpret the laws of the game correctly. That's not just for matches involving the Red Bulls but for all clubs inside MLS.