I think it’s fairly safe to say that Carl Robinson and David Gantar aren’t on each others Christmas card lists.
Gantar and the Whitecaps haven’t been happy bedfellows for a number of years now, with Robinson previously clashing with the official after some contentious past decisions.
Unfortunately it was the man in the middle who once again stole most of the headlines in Wednesday evening’s Canadian Championship clash between the ‘Caps and Toronto FC at B.C. Place after Gantar was at the centre of what were some of the decisive key moments in the match.
The Whitecaps were left fuming by what they saw as three major blown calls in their 2-2 draw with TFC.
The first came when Gantar issued a straight red to Felipe as the game entered first half stoppage time for a tackle on Marky Delgado. Robinson could be heard shouting “it’s you again” to Gantar after the decision and he certainly didn’t mince his words when discussing the official after the match.
“I wish I could tell you what is in my mind at the moment,” Robinson seethed. “I’m really not sure [what we can be done with him] because he spoilt the game. It’s not a red card. He’s got that wrong, but it’s okay. This is what I hear all the time, it’s not okay.
“He’ll be officiating again at the weekend, but it’s not okay because it spoiled a game on live, national TV today of two good teams going at each other, but the 12th person spoiled the game. I’m fuming, as you can probably tell.”
With no VAR in operation for these Canadian Championship matches, Gantar was left as the sole decision maker for the first leg of the final, and after watching replays of the call and speaking to others after the match, the ‘Caps coach is left in no doubt that in his mind, it was barely a yellow card, never mind a red.
“You know, at the time I thought it was possibly a red card,” Robinson admitted. “He raised his foot. I’ve seen it on TV. What you tend to find is football people know what is a red card and what is a yellow. You get disgruntled managers that might not tell the truth sometimes because they’re biased.
“But I’ve been told by ten different people in there exactly the same thing, so I’m right this time. And when you’re right, I think it’s a contentious yellow, I can see that, but not a red. Then Yordy [Reyna] goes through at the end and it’s a tackle from behind. You set the tone, You sent the player off, but it’s a yellow card. That’s a disgruntled manager.”
The admission by Robinson that he initially thought it was a sending off highlights the difficult job referees have in making split decisions in a fast moving environment with just an instant chance to process. A lot depends on the view and angle the referee has on the decision, and many do feel that Felipe went over the ball and deserved his red.
But the tackle on Reyna, that earned Justin Morrow a 79th minute booking, was the second of Gantar’s major contentious calls for the ‘Caps. The Peruvian playmaker was running in on goal when he was brought down from behind. Gantar gave Vancouver a free kick on the edge of the box and a yellow card to the TFC player.
But perhaps what pushed Robinson over the edge was what he saw as a clear foul on Erik Hurtado on the build up to Toronto’s second goal, a Doneil Henry own goal that makes the ‘Caps trip east next week all the more difficult and with an uphill task ahead of them.
That could be the decisive goal of the tie, but it was an attack Robinson is adamant should never have even been allowed to happen.
“It’s a clear foul, literally in the lead up to play,” Robinson stated. “It was another decision that he got wrong, David Gantar, during the game. A key decision at a key moment, which is what we all talk about.
“We sit in meetings with Howard Webb. He tries to get the officiating good. We talk about good players on fields. Top, top players. You’ve got to get the officiating right and it clearly wasn’t right today.”
Vancouver may still be very much in the tie, just needing a win in Toronto next week to lift only their second ever Voyageurs Cup, but that seemed to be proving scant consolation for Robbo.
“All I said in the lead up to the game, was that I hoped it was a good game,” Robinson said. “And it was a really good game, but it was spoiled. We know who by, we know what because of, but it’s okay, that’s all I’ll hear, but it’s not okay.
“I said to the guys in there, tell me how you feel – disappointed, fuming, angry, and there were a few expletives about the referee. I said to them, I’m so proud of them today because that’s a terrific performance against all the odds, against a good team.”
It’s easy to use officiating to deflect from teams not getting the job done on the pitch. You can certainly argue how much Felipe’s dismissal cost the ‘Caps the chance of heading into the second leg with a lead.
Would Vancouver have played with as much urgency and energy as they did in the second half with 11 men on the park, when that wasn’t how the first 45 minutes had played out? And there’s no getting away from the fact that both Toronto goals were due to more defensive mistakes from the ‘Caps, a major continuing disappointment in itself.
But despite that, it’s hard not to look at potentially blown calls as being the difference maker in a match, and Robinson feels his team don’t get the same breaks and treatment as some of the bigger sides on the block.
“I said to the guys, we get some terrible bad luck and get some terrible calls,” Robinson added. “Big players. key players, and we’ve got good, young, key players, don’t get any calls. That is a foul in the lead up to the goal, and if it was on the other centre forward on the opposite team, it would one hundred percent be called a foul, but it’s not, because it’s Erik Hurtado.
“That’s wrong. That’s so wrong, it’s incredible, and I keep saying and I keep talking about it and we keep writing reports about it, nothing changes, and it’s okay, there’s next week.”
Next week brings the second leg and likely a fine for Robinson for his postgame comments. But what kind of gameplan will it bring for the ‘Caps as they head into Toronto now needing to win?
“Same as we did today,” Robinson said. “Hopefully it’s a fun game. Two good teams go at it. Two different ideas. Hopefully it’s about the teams rather than someone else.”