Justice for Mitch, “Kind Of”

The outcome of FC Cincinnati‘s match against New York Red Bulls II on Sunday was heavily influenced when a penalty kick was awarded to New York in the 9th minute of play. After a lengthy video review of the incident by the USL’s experimental VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system, a penalty kick was awarded to Red Bulls II. FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt was then issued a red card for denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity and was dismissed from the match. FC Cincinnati was reduced to 10 men, New York converted the penalty kick, and the Orange and Blue lost 2-0 with the second goal coming after the 90th minute. As part of the review, the VAR appeared to overturn an offside call by the assistant referee that would have negated the penalty incident.

On Tuesday evening, the USL issued the following statement rescinding the red card against Hildebrandt.

“Following an appeal from FC Cincinnati, goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt’s red card from Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls II has been rescinded, making him eligible for his team’s game against the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday night.”

FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding issued the following response after the decision.

“We are pleased with the USL for rescinding Mitch Hildebrandt’s red card from Sunday night’s match versus NYRBII and restoring his eligibility to play tomorrow in another key match against Charlotte Independence. While we are happy to get Mitch back for Charlotte, the result of the New York match remains a disappointment to our team, owners, staff and fans. Subjective judgements and mistakes remain a part of the game and we are appreciative that the league office is understanding of that and took steps to correct the situation.”

While it is commendable that the red card was overturned by USL a few things remain troublesome.

First, it’s disappointing that it took a FC Cincinnati appeal to set these events into motion. Perhaps the USL would have taken corrective action on their own, but the appeal is clearly referenced in the statement and it’s uncertain whether any remediation would have taken place without a formal complaint.

Second, more clarity or information about why specifically the red card was rescinded would be helpful.

Third, any confidence or optimism that people watching this match may have had in the use of video replay has to be shaken by the events on the field Sunday night. It’s worth noting that a second penalty was awarded to New York in stoppage time, and the play did not appear to be reviewed by VAR at all. It is certain that the average FC Cincinnati fan thought that second penalty decision was questionable as well, yet there was no review to confirm the referee’s decision.

Most importantly, the red card changed the complexion of the match and heavily influenced the result. There is nothing that can be done to change that now. The match is in the books. The points dropped by FC Cincinnati will likely have a tangible impact on their positioning in this year’s postseason though.

So Mitch will play on Wednesday against Charlotte and FC Cincinnati fans are thankful for it. A partial remedy has been provided, but the officiating decisions on the field Sunday will continue to have an impact both on the points totals in the table and in the minds of the USL’s new FC Cincinnati audience.

The Orange and Blue are back  in action Wednesday, August 31st against the Charlotte Independence in North Carolina. See our matchup segment for more details.

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