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Gonzalo Pineda: We need to earn respect from the referees and the league

It’s okay...just keep showing them “We’re back.” They’ll figure it out eventually.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York City FC Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

First off, I want one of these Gonzalo Pineda coats. I’m a sucker for a good coat and he’s been on fire with the wardrobe choices recently.

On a cold night in New York, it was Pineda who brought the fiery words in reference to the manner in which the Atlanta United vs NYCFC match was officiated. The Five Stripes took the fight to the boroughs and came out with a hard-earned draw Saturday night, but not without a fair share of drama and, quite frankly, embarrassing officiating.

Let’s address the elephant in the room first; in no way are the complaints pointing towards Franco Ibarra’s red card. While Drew Fischer probably could’ve been justified in simply handing out a yellow to each player in the situation, he initially gave the yellow to James Sands for the coming together between him and Ibarra. He also inexplicably tried to give a yellow to Matheus Rossetto, who was simply standing on the sideline waiting to be subbed on. He then reviewed VAR and canceled everything and handed Ibarra the straight red.

The red card is valid, if not somewhat harsh. By definition it’s indeed a red, but it’s important to remember the context behind the foul, how close both players came to the ball, and how wild both players entered the tackle. Referring to it as “cowardly” or “malicious” is plain incorrect. Either way, what’s super important is how the team responded to going a man down.

They scored a goal.

NYCFC definitely made a heck of a choice watching Thiago Almada receive the rebounded corner kick and then allowing him to stroll about 10 yards unchallenged, before he picked up his head and found Giorgos Giakoumakis at the back post.

Unfortunately, moments later NYCFC found the equalizer after conceding the slightest bit of space at the top of the box, and an outstretched Brad Guzan was mere centimeters from parrying the ball away. Regardless, this all happened while the Five Stripes were playing with 10 men, which should inspire a ton of confidence as a fan because they’ve now gone two weeks in a row where they their game, despite opposition physicality or shoddy refereeing.

Atlanta United would proceed to see the game out - with a few more chances - all the way into extra innings. Drew Fischer had added three minutes to the end of the first half, which was wild considering two lengthy injury stoppages for Brad Guzan and Franco Ibarra. He apparently then remembered he only added those three minutes, because the second half saw him tack on a full ten. Pineda was rightfully livid going into the post-match press conference and pointed to simple fixes that could make the friction between PRO referees and coaches/players/fans less abrasive.

Unfortunately, when a reffing organization has no true repercussions for inconsistent officiating or downright incorrect calls, they will always act untouchable. Pineda said that he approached Drew Fischer in the aftermath of the match (which you can see on the Apple TV broadcast) and the ref’s comments were essentially “We’re always right.” Much of the frustration stemmed from the first half incidents where Brad Guzan took an incredibly heavy, reckless tackle from New York that saw (and heard) him hit the grass screaming. It was bad enough that many folks, myself included, thought he was done...again.

For some reason, no yellow card was issued in that situation.

Moments later, Giakoumakis entered a tackle slightly late and pulled his legs back at the last second to stall the challenge. His knee barely caught a NYCFC player, who played up the acting, and Giorgos was booked with a yellow.

A ref that calls a hard game calls a hard game, and players adapt. A ref that calls a soft game calls a soft game, and players adapt. But an inconsistent ref is the worst because players fail to understand what’s allowed, and that’s where injuries begin to mount and frustration seeps over leading to yellows and reds for dissent.

Ultimately, the Five Stripes came away from one of the toughest places to play in the league with a point after being down a man for most of the second half, and that’s to be celebrated. It’s just unfortunate that the spotlight is back on reffing decisions, once again. Like Pineda mentioned last week and this week, though, Atlanta is just going to have to earn the respect from the refs and other teams, and that comes from winning despite the outside noise.

Check out what Pineda had to say below, and be sure to leave your comments, too.

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda

Thoughts on the result

“I am not angry about the result. I feel like we had better chances. We had more expected goals and more expected goals per chance. Either way, it may be justified because they [NYCFC] also had important chances. Same way that we had chances. It is a result that is fair. I am annoyed at the way that the referees managed the game. It has been many times that it has gone against us this season.”

On the Referee’s performance

“I’m very upset with the way Drew [Fischer] carried on with the game. It was the second time that they [NYCFC] went at the knee of Brad Guzan without a punishment. I am very upset with that and I told him [Drew Fischer] that. Again, we need to earn respect from the Referees and the League. We need to win more games and we need to win more trophies because we don’t have the respect. I am very very upset with the way they [referees] managed the game. The ten minutes was not accurate. The yellow card on Giorgios Giakoumakis, I think, compared to the tackle on Brad [Guzan] is nothing. I am very upset with that. It’s those little things, when you play away against a very good team and a very good coach is not easy. I am very happy with the effort, with the passion that my team showed today. We need more performances like this to earn more respect from the referees.”

On the Red Card on Franco Ibarra

“I haven’t seen that one. I saw the tackle on Brad Guzan and just believe that it is unbelievable that it was not even a yellow card. To me, it was a bad call. It was the second time in a row that they went against Brad [Guzan] that way. I need to take care of my players because the referees are not doing that with my players but with the others, they are.”

On the Team’s Performance

“I am really proud of the dedication, effort, and hard work from the players. The players played great football. My players did that on a really tough pitch, against a team that is really good. I am proud of that because they showed heart, being a man down. We went ahead at one point. In the ten minutes of stoppage time, they [NYCFC] went on dangerous attacks but other than that, the team controlled the situation well and showed a really strong mentality.”

On Conversation With Drew Fischer

“Just talked about specific situations that I disagree on. If that is a fine, then it is welcomed. They [referees] always respond the same way. They are always ‘right’. It’s what they always say. I went very respectfully and he said he is always right. This is the answer that you always get when you complain about certain calls and that is the frustration we have. It is never ‘yes, I made a mistake. I am sorry’. I just don’t think it was ten minutes. If that is ten minutes then there have been many times where we are chasing the result and they [referees] give three or four minutes. It is not about one call or the other. It is about the consistency of their calls. They are very specific about wasting time, which by the way, we were not wasting time. We were always trying to play quickly. We got punished at that moment when we had ten men on the field.”

As usual, if you haven’t already go check out the post-match Spaces show we host. The Scarves and Spikes crew (myself, Tommy, and Sydney) chatted along with the fans last night about how the match played out in Yankee Stadium.