The Full 90

Referee says he misjudged play on call that took away a Sporting KC goal

There’s nothing wrong with winning a point on the road, but Sporting Kansas City definitely feels as though it was cheated out of the full three points by a blown offside call Sunday against D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Defender Ike Opara scored a goal in the 30th minute, but it was waived off by assistant referee Matt Nelson’s offside call. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Replays clearly showed that multiple United defenders kept Opara onside, so the goal should have counted.

At The Star’s request, Nelson was asked for an explanation: “I misjudged the play at the time the ball was kicked, leading me to believe the player was in an offside position.”

That upholds Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes’ contention that Nelson missed the call.

“It’s pretty easy to say in that game that we should have had three points just based on the call in the first half,” Vermes said. “There’s three guys that keep (Opara) onside. What do I say about that? That goal 30 minutes into the game at their place changes the game completely.”

There is no recourse for reinstating the goal, which would have been Opara’s first since 2010 and first with Sporting KC, or replaying the game. The result will stand despite the error, but Nelson likely faces sanctions from the league.

“I know in the past the league has suspended referees, demoted referees or taken them off a certain number of games,” Vermes said. “The new organization they made, PRO, is headed in the right direction.”

PRO is the Professional Referee Organization, which U.S. Soccer and the MLS started in March 2012 to help attract and develop better match officials for the highest level of soccer in North America.

And there appears to be some accountability from that organization as well.

“It was clearly a wrong call and one that cannot be justified,” said Peter Walton, general manager of the Professional Referee Organization. “At this early stage, it appears that the assistant loses focus and concentration on a crucial play.”

Vermes believes D.C. probably would have had to chase the game before halftime, opening up even more counterattacking opportunities for Sporting KC, which thoroughly dominated possession as it was (59.3 percent).

He also said his second-half strategy changes if Sporting KC is sitting on the lead.

“If we go in at halftime 1-0 or 2-0, everything’s different for the second half at that point,” Vermes said. “There’s no doubt, it’s a loss of two points.”

Still, Vermes stopped short of chastising Nelson for the mistake.

“Those guys are growing,” Vermes said. “I didn’t bash the referee, because I understand that everybody makes mistakes. We all makes mistakes. It happens. The severity of that one is the issue, because three guys kept (Opara) onside.

“I hope the referee — because we’re going to see him again at some point — is a lot better for it and learns from that situation. But that part has to improve.”