Major League Soccer

PRO admit fault during Decision Day clash between Sporting Kansas City & Real Salt Lake

Chris Smith
Justen Glad appeared to handle the ball inside his own penalty area on Sunday.
Justen Glad appeared to handle the ball inside his own penalty area on Sunday. / William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) has issued an official statement admitting fault during Sunday's Decision Day clash between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake.

RSL won the match 1-0 thanks to a dramatic 95th-minute winner from Damir Kreilach.

It was a result that pushed Salt Lake into the MLS Cup Playoff spots at the expense of the LA Galaxy, while also helping deny SKC a place at the top of the Western Conference.

But there was controversy in the 90th minute when RSL center-back Justen Glad appeared to handle the ball in his own box. Referee Ted Unkel failed to give a penalty, while VAR remained silent on the issue. Minutes later, Kreilach struck to give Salt Lake a huge win on the road.

"After checking all available angles, the VAR determined that the non-giving of a penalty for handling was not a clear and obvious error," PRO said shortly after the match.

"In real-time, the angle of the referee's view isn't definitive if the ball hits Espinoza's chest or Glad's hand. The VAR determined the action by Glad was not deliberate."

SKC head coach Peter Vermes had a very different view on the events.

"The fact that we missed that call out there in any game, let alone in the magnitude of this game, is incredibly, incredibly disappointing to someone who has been in the league since 1996," he said in his post-match press conference.

"To see we have come so far but we haven't come far enough because we can't even get that right and we have replay... I'm embarrassed today to be a part of the league when you can't do that."

Vermes has been vindicated somewhat - although it's unlikely to take away the pain of losing the match - by PRO admitting they made an error with Glad's missed handball.

"The Professional Referee Organization today acknowledged an error that occurred in the Sporting Kansas City vs Real Salt Lake game on November 7," an official PRO statement read.

"In the 90th minute, a handball offense occurred inside Real Salt Lake’s penalty area; however, the referee did not award a penalty kick in real-time, allowing play to continue.

"The video assistant referee (VAR), when checking the play, saw that the ball made contact with Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad’s right hand, but concluded that the non-awarding of a penalty kick did not reach the threshold of a clear and obvious error, and therefore did not recommend a Video Review to the referee. However, the footage shows clear movement to the ball by the right hand of Glad, in a manner which can reasonably be interpreted as being consistent with a handball offense.

"In PRO’s judgement, a Video Review should have been recommended and a penalty kick awarded. PRO considers the decision not to recommend a review to be an error by the VAR."

Sunday's contentious result means RSL will travel to the Seattle Sounders in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, 23rd November (10:30pm, ET). SKC host the Vancouver Whitecaps three days earlier at 5pm ET.

The full MLS Cup Playoff schedule can be found here.