In a wild 3-3 draw with a very physical Portland Timbers, Salt Lake fans once again got a look at the Video Assistant Referee, or VAR as it's abbreviated to.
Still in the testing stages, the VAR should be recognisable to fans of the NFL. Basically, an additional referee is assigned to a booth with technology that gives access to video from every broadcast feed camera angle. Having already influenced 2 of the 3 preseason game for RSL, we thought now would be a good time to take a better look at what could be a game changer (pun intended) for MLS.
The VAR technology is being overseen by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and of the 22 MLS clubs in preseason, 15 will be included in the on field testing. The Desert Diamond Cup, Portland Invitation Tournament, IMG International and the Carolina Challenge Cup have all chosen to test this technology. It's important to note that the VAR system uses the broadcast cameras and no additional cameras exclusive to VAR.
This means the video assistant will only have access to the things we see when the games are shown on TV and nothing else. If you can't see it, the VAR can't either. There is a clause that states that "additional camera could be added for the VARs, provided that the broadcasters have access to them and the footage is also used/shown in case the VAR or referee uses these specific camera angles for his/her decision". So if we suddenly get a whole bunch of new cameras to watch replays of Omar Holness scoring golazos, then you can thank the VAR!
Even more important is what this new process can be used for. Well, at the moment, it's limited to just four things. Goals, penalty calls, direct red cards and mistaken identity cases. These are what are defined as "game-changing" decisions.
The process goes like this: the VAR watches the game from their booth from the broadcast camera's. If one of the 4 incidents happens and they believe the official has made a call in error, either by giving or missing, the VAR signals to the official that they need to review the play.
The referee then has to make the screen signal with his hands and review the play in the touchline booth. The referee can then make a call based on his review, either upholding the original call or changing it based on these new angles. The VAR doesn't have the right to overrule the referee and their call is final which is key to maintaining the authority and the legitimacy of the referee.
We all know this feeling...
After the preseason tests, MLS will run offline testing (where there will be no video reviews of plays but the technology will be tested for sustainability and reliability) until the 2017 All Star Game on August 2. Commissioner Garber is already a big fan of the technology, hoping to incorporate VARs fulling into MLS matches after the All Star Game.
The IFAB plans to make a final decision on the technology in late 2018 or early 2019 which the rest of the footballing world will no doubt be very interested to hear. Thankfully, RSL fans don't have wait that long to have an opinion on VAR as we've seen it twice now!
Let us know what you think of the VAR, good and bad, in the comments!