FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – The stadium was at a complete standstill. Individual conversations could be heard audibly. All eyes were on referee Ismir Pekmic to see if he was going to reverse the call.
He blew his whistle and walked to the spot. The penalty was going to stand.
In one of the best attended games of their season, the New England Revolution took on a rejuvenated Toronto FC hoping to climb the table with the help of new signings Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
Although the game ended 0-0, the Revs dominated early on creating lots of chances down their right hand side.
With Gustavo Bou and Dylan Borrero still out, head coach Bruce Arena had to rely on veteran midfielder Tommy McNamara to play out of position.
While the Brown University alum usually plays in the center, Arena liked what he added to the wings and thought it was vital to the team’s offensive success.
“That’s what he offers our team, versatility,” Arena said. “He’s an experienced player that can play in a bunch of spots. He understands how to play and attributes well to the team.”
Heading into the second half was when the controversial calls became a regularity for the Revolution.
30 minutes in second veteran Revs midfielder Matt Polster appeared to take down Deandre Kerr in the box and Pekmic called a penalty.
The Revolution players could not believe their eyes and were still protesting as Insigne put the ball down on the spot.
The groans continued. But there was still hope for the Revolution.
Pekmic was summoned over to the VAR screen to have a closer look as the replay is shown to all 29,000 fan in the stadium. It was clear, Kerr swiped at Polster’s planted foot.
Four minutes passed and finally the referee finished his deliberations. With the whistle in his mouth he very tensely walked to the spot to signal the penalty.
Insigne stepped up to the spot. He went for the bottom right but a firm right hand save by goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic pushed it wide.
“Ball don’t lie,” center back Henry Kessler said postgame reflecting on the huge save.
The game then opened up with both teams hitting the woodwork and putting chances just wide.
Play was at a stalemate all the way into stoppage time and just as the Revs thought they would receive a golden opportunity from a free kick, the referee decided to let play continue. A few moments after, he blew the final whistle.
‘It would have been a good opportunity,” Kessler said, “ I think the free kick would’ve been in a good spot. I think in general we can create even more and not just rely on the referee to make the proper call.”
The no call left many scratching their hands looking for answers, none more so than Arena who continues to be confused on what is and isn’t a foul.
“Another mystery game on what a foul is,” Arena said. “Is it a foul? I think this clear and obvious standard on VAR is confusing to everybody and they’re going to have a new interpretation on the offside that I think is going to be even more confusing.”
It marked the second straight 0-0 result for the Revs. With an injury plagued team, Arena’s side is going to have to rely on new signing Giacomo Vrioni to generate offense.
“It was a better performance than the game in Columbus and [Vrioni] obviously had that chance at the end of the game,” Arena said. “ I thought he did well.”
With his Gillette Stadium debut under his belt, Vrioni will look to build on the valuable minutes he earned as his team looks to move back into a playoff spot with 12 matches remaining.
“The atmosphere was very nice and the fans unbelievable,” Vrioni said.
“I’m a little bit mad about the situation because I wanted to score to give the three points to the team and the fans because they deserved it.”