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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

PRO Referees: We blew it

In a rare open admission of fault, PRO referees, the organization of referees that represent all MLS and USL officials, admitted that a disallowed own goal by Miami in Saturday night’s 0-0 Miami vs Pittsburgh match was, in fact, a blown call. It should have been a goal.

The brief statement released on Tuesday reads:

“During the USL Championship match between The Miami FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on October 16, 2021, an officiating error was made when a goal was wrongly disallowed by the match officials.

According to the Laws of the Game: ‘if a direct or in-direct free kick is kicked directly into the team’s own goal, a corner kick is awarded.’ The officials incorrectly believed that the goal was scored directly from the free kick, which was not the case.

The entire crew have been removed from their next PRO assignment.”

If you missed the match, here’s the goal-that-wasn’t.

The overseeing organization’s assessment of the error exactly matches what Hounds coach Bob Lilley said immediately following the match. Lilley said, ““(The officials) said it was the first pass, but it wasn’t, clearly. We’ve seen it, (Miami coach) Paul Dalglish has seen it, and even he said it was a goal. It was a perfectly good goal.”

The refereeing error was certainly a team effort. After the own goal, head referee JJ Bilinski could be seen conferring with his assistant referee nearest to the goal for a short while. Ultimately, the two concluded that the ball had been player from the free kick directly back to the goalkeeper. In fact, the opening pass went to left back Janos Löbe. Löbe passes back to Miami keeper Connor Sparrow, and Sparrow somehow completely whiffs on the reception as the ball gets tucked neatly in the bottom left corner.

The two assistant referees in the match were Justen Lopez and Juan Pablo Casas.

The error may have devastating consequences for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The Hounds sit currently on 52 points in the USL Atlantic division, good enough for third and a definite playoff spot. However, they sit level on points, and one win behind Charlotte Independence, who hold second place. The top two teams in each conference in USL will host opening round playoff home games, while the third and fourth place teams begin the post-season on the road. The Riverhounds have two matches remaining, while Charlotte has yet three to go. A combination of 3 Charlotte wins, or 2 Charlotte wins and a Riverhounds loss would mean that Pittsburgh will start the USL playoffs on the road.

With a full or nearly-filled Highmark Stadium for a playoff matchup at roughly $10 a ticket, Hounds owner Tuffy Shallenberger would have pulled $50,000 in ticket revenue for the match. That’s not including concession sales and merchandise. The failed call meant the loss of the deserved full three points instead of the one point the Hounds picked up for the draw.

In the event those two points make the difference in the final standings between second and third place, that will likely go down as one of the most expensive errors in USL history.

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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