New York City FC 1-2 Toronto: 3 things we learned from defeat

Apr 2, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York City defender Thiago Martins (5) battles for the ball
Apr 2, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York City defender Thiago Martins (5) battles for the ball / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 3
Talles Magno of New York City FC
Apr 2, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC midfielder Kosi Thompson (47) battles for the ball / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

2. VAR does not like New York City FC in 2022

So far this season, New York City FC has had poor luck with the virtual assistant referee, or VAR.  Two penalty kick decisions were overturned, and both occurred in the last two games. 

In the fixture against the Philadelphia Union, the Bronx side was originally awarded a penalty kick on an apparent foul in the box.  VAR was used to check the penalty kick and red card, and after the review, the foul was clearly called.  In spite of this, VAR revealed there was a handball on NYCFC prior to the foul, and as such, the penalty kick and red card were both overturned. 

While that VAR decision was bad luck, it was the correct decision.  However, the reverse penalty kick call in the fixture against Toronto was controversial, and per YES analyst Ian Joy, the wrong decision.

In the 8th minute, a clear foul was committed on Talles Magno by Kosi Thompson in the box.  Yes, it was not intentional, but there was contact whereas Magno tripped in the box because of the contact.  And, a foul does not have to be intentional to be called.  Not every camera angle revealed the contact, but there was enough to show the foul occurred. 

There have been penalty kicks called for even weaker fouls and handballs, but for some reason the referee, Drew Fischer, was advised to review via VAR.  After the review, Fischer came back and overturned the penalty kick call. 

For starters, there is the question on whether there was a clear and obvious error with the call.  Many would argue it was not clear and obvious, and enough angles were available to show the contact on Magno.  In addition, it is puzzling that Fischer was advised to go to VAR.

Meanwhile, there was contact, so why was the call reversed?  The contact impeded Magno from a scoring chance, and was unnecessary.  It would not matter if some angles could not confirm the contact, because again, other views confirmed it.  The reversal decision was poor by Fischer, and was a mistake that should have never happened. 

Why did this happen? Well, the Professional Referee Organization, or PRO, acknowledged the initial decision should have stood, and admitted an error occurred. PRO said VAR "incorrectly determined the awarding of a penalty kick to be a clear and obvious error". In fact, this incompetence is not entirely due to Fischer, for "an available camera angle did reveal foul contact", but it was not "made available to the referee on the pitch-side monitor".

NYCFC fans could only imagine what would have transpired if the penalty kick was confirmed, as it should have been, and then the kick was successfully converted.  The team would have gone up 1-0, and the pace of the game could have remained in their favor.  At the same time, the result would have been a draw in the case all other goals still occurred. 

Alas, the Pigeons have to score in MLS, and the goal from Héber came too late.  Sometimes decisions go against teams, and players must forget and play on.  New York City FC did not get any points on the road, and the entire blame cannot be based on the VAR decision.  Nevertheless, it did impact the rest of the game, and the “what if” question will remain.