'Most likely onside.' Refereeing decision looms large in FC Cincinnati's 2-2 draw with Atlanta United

·7 min read

Over the course of the 90 minutes, FC Cincinnati players and coaches seemed to agree a 2-2 draw with Atlanta United was a fair outcome.

What stung about the 2-2 final score and left the Cincinnati organization wanting for answers was the manner in which video-assistant refereeing (VAR) standards were applied to Atlanta's late, game-tying second goal.

In the 83rd minute of Saturday's match at TQL Stadium, former FC Cincinnati wing back Andrew Gutman shoveled the ball past Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano with some doubt as to whether or not he was onside.

Ultimately, the play didn't go to video review on-field. Afterward, FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan and defender Nick Hagglund claimed officials said the goal was "most likely onside."

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That, they said, was the rationale presented to them for not reviewing Gutman's goal.

During Noonan's post-match remarks, GM Chris Albright chimed in from the back of the room to assert he was also given the "most likely onside" response from officials.

After the final whistle, Albright appeared to seek an explanation on-field as the officials exited toward their dressing room.

Cincinnati's head coach and GM were clearly frustrated by the explanation they received from the officiating crew.

"The response we got when asked why that wasn't reviewed was 'it was most likely onside.' So, 'most likely' now means that we just don't even look at it," Noonan said. "If it's most likely, that's good enough. Just to hear those words, and not have a play reviewed ... is indicative of where we're at with these type of moments in our game. We talk about it too much. You know what? If they look at it and they say 'onside,' so be it, but to hear that response and then say we're not gonna look at it with it most likely −not 100%, most likely being onsides − that says it all.

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Asked if he understood the criteria for what warranted an on-field video review, Noonan said: "I have no idea anymore what's reviewed, what's not, why it is, why it isn't. You still have humans looking at these plays and not being able to properly assess them."

The Gutman goal resulted in dropped points for FC Cincinnati, which moved to 8-8-9 and into a four-club tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. A victory, which FCC was in line for after a 29th-minute Brandon Vazquez equalizer for 1-1 and Brenner Souza da Silva's go-ahead goal in the 42nd minute, might have seen Cincinnati remain in the sixth position by itself.

But the club was left to rue the dropped points from a winning position yet again.

"First half, we didn't play that well but came out with a good score line, 2-1," Hagglund said. "Didn't get a hold of the ball in the second half and ultimately (we) paid the goal that was awardable. Was it onside? Offside? I don't feel we should get to that point and that's on us."

Thiago Almada side-footed Atlanta into the lead in 18th minute as the "Five Stripes" bossed the early stages of the match.

Cincinnati responded with goals from Vazquez, who scored his 15th of the season in the 29th minute, and Brenner, who nodded home his ninth of the year in the 42nd minute.

Vazquez moved to within one goal of tying Emmanuel Ledesma's all-time, single-season club record for goals (16), which predated FC Cincinnati's time in Major League Soccer.

The Brenner goal saw him eclipse his haul of eight from his debut MLS campaign in 2021.

"I think it's probably fair when you look at the way that game played out," Noonan said of the result in his opening remarks. "Credit to Atlanta. They put us under a lot of pressure, certainly in the first half. We were careless with the ball. They have some dangerous players that have the ability to attack one-versus one, to get in the box. We ask a lot of our defenders and Roman. Too many of those moments where our lack of composure and just being careless on the ball just didn't allow us to move forward as a group ... The game was open at times, which is good on one hand because it allows us some space to attack them but on the other side, I think there's too much quality on their side ... to be defending like that. Probably a fair result based on how we performed."

The playoff picture: Nine matches to go

FC Cincinnati technically fell below the playoff cutline in the east on tiebreakers, but the fact remains that it was still alive and well on 33 points and nine matches remaining. Four of those games will be played at TQL Stadium, and for the first time in what felt like months, Cincinnati faced more road matches than home dates remaining with five to go.

The target for Cincinnati to hit in order to contest the seventh and final playoff spot in the east is likely 45 points based on end-of-season point totals over the last five 34-match MLS regular seasons. Forty-eight points would put FCC in good standing for a playoff spot based on history, too.

From the remaining 27 points available to FCC, the club would need 12 to reach 45 points.

FC Cincinnati's remaining schedule:

  • Aug. 20 – @ New York Red Bulls (10-7-7, 37 pts., fourth in east)

  • Aug. 27 – vs. Columbus Crew (8-6-9, 33 pts., fifth in east)

  • Sept. 3 – vs. Charlotte FC (9-13-2, 29 pts., 11th in east)

  • Sept. 7 – @ New York City FC (12-5-6, 42 pts., second in east)

  • Sept. 10 – vs. San Jose Earthquakes (5-10-9, 24 pts., 13th in Western Conference)

  • Sept. 17 – @ Real Salt Lake (9-8-7, 34 pts., fifth in Western Conference)

  • Sept. 22 – vs. Chivas Guadalajara (friendly)

  • Sept. 27 – @ Seattle Sounders FC (10-12-2, 32 pts., eighth in west)

  • Oct. 1 – vs. Chicago Fire FC (8-10-6, 30 pts., seventh in east)

  • Oct. 9 – @ D.C. United (6-13-4, 22 pts., 14th in east)

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Welcome to Cincinnati.com's live coverage of FC Cincinnati versus Atlanta United at TQL Stadium (7:30 p.m.) Refresh this page throughout the match for live updates and analysis, and follow Enquirer FC Cincinnati reporter Pat Brennan on Twitter (@PBrennanENQ), along with reporter Sara Tidwell (@saramtidwell).

In-match updates:

  • FINAL: FC Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 2.

  • 83rd minute -- GOAL, Atlanta United (2-2): Andrew Gutman.

  • 79th minute -- YELLOW card, Tyler Blackett (CIN).

  • 58th minute -- YELLOW card, Matt Miazga (CIN).

  • Halftime: FC Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1.

  • 41st minute -- GOAL, FC Cincinnati (2-1): Brenner Souza da Silva (assist, Geoff Cameron). Brenner scored his ninth of the season on a header off a skulled shot by Cameron. The score allowed Brenner to eclipse his 2021 total of eight goals.

  • 29th minute -- GOAL, FC Cincinnati (1-1): Brandon Vazquez (assist, Obinna Nwobodo). Vazquez scored his club-record 15th of the season and became the first player in club history to score in four straight matches.

  • 27th minute -- YELLOW card, Caleb Wiley (ATL).

  • 18th minute -- GOAL, Atlanta United (0-1): Thiago Almada.

  • 14th minute - YELLOW card, Alvaro Barreal (CIN).

  • Match underway at about 7:38 p.m.

Pre-match updates:

FC Cincinnati starting XI: Roman Celentano (GK), Alvas Powell, Alvaro Barreal, Nick Hagglund, Geoff Cameron, Matt Miazga, Obinna Nwobodo, Luciano Acosta (captain), Junior Moreno, Brenner Souza da Silva, Brandon Vazquez.

FC Cincinnati bench: Alec Kann (GK), John Nelson, Yuya Kubo, Allan Cruz, Dominique Badji, Tyler Blackett, Ray Gaddis, Quimi Ordonez, Ian Murphy.

Atlanta United starting XI: Rocco Rios-Novo (GK), Ronald Hernandez, Alan Franco, Andrew Gutman, Juan Sanchez Purata, Caleb Wiley, Santiago Sosa, Thiago Almada, Marcelino Moreno (captain), Luiz Da Araujo, Ronaldo Cisneros.

Atlanta bench: Alex de John, Dom Dwyer, Josef Martinez, Brooks Lennon, Amar Sedic, Franco Ibarra, Edwin Mosquera, Raul Gudino, Aiden McFadden.

FC Cincinnati celebrates a goal by midfielder Álvaro Barreal (31) in the second half of the MLS match between FC Cincinnati and Philadelphia Union at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. FC Cincinnati scored three goals in the second half for a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.
FC Cincinnati celebrates a goal by midfielder Álvaro Barreal (31) in the second half of the MLS match between FC Cincinnati and Philadelphia Union at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. FC Cincinnati scored three goals in the second half for a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Former FC Cincinnati player haunts club as Atlanta United earn 2-2 draw