A league that pioneered video review needs to uphold the same principals and do the right thing concerning FC Dallas and their illegal substitution over the weekend.
Prior to Saturday’s scoreless draw between Dallas and Orlando City, Michael Barrios was officially placed in FCD’s Starting XI, then summarily removed before kickoff, the team stating that the player had a foot injury and was unable to start. But then Barrios was inserted as a substitute late in the match, running afoul of the league’s rules.
That he didn’t matter or impact things much in a 0-0 match doesn’t change what happened. It also shouldn’t change what MLS must do, what truly is their only course of action.
According to MLS’ rules, a player placed in the starting lineup who is then removed prior to kickoff is ineligible to play in that same match. This is to prevent teams from announcing their Starting XI then summarily making a slew of changes prior to kickoff. It is a rule that makes a lot of sense and is utilized the world over.
That Barrios was brought into the match is not only a terrible oversight of the four-man officiating crew in that match but is a decision that should be subject to forfeiture, as spelled out in the league rulebook.
Unknowingly or not, FCD fielded an ineligible player. Forfeiture is the only response.
If the league doesn’t respond in this manner, then it is making a mockery of itself.
Last year, MLS spearheaded the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the United Soccer League, the second-division that is strongly affiliated with MLS. To that point, the limited use of VAR last year in the USL was implemented and run by MLS officials, who used it as a springboard for this year’s launch of instant replay.
MLS went to great and noticeable lengths to implement VAR within the rules of the game, specifically to aid referees and help ensure the integrity of calls. While VAR could not be called on in this particular instance and it is well after this weekend’s game anyway, it shouldn’t stop MLS from doing the right thing.
FC Dallas should forfeit the match and lose the point it earned this weekend in the draw against Orlando City, who in turn should earn three points from the match.
If MLS went to such great extremes to implement and utilize VAR, a process this league started in conjunction with the USL and well ahead of the rest of the world, then a similar standard should be utilized here. It is about the game’s integrity.
That is not to say that FC Dallas intentionally cheated or knowingly broke the rules, but the end result is the same thing. They must, if MLS is serious about the integrity of the game, do the only thing that can uphold the standards of the game.
Uphold this weekend’s match and result and the whole purpose behind things that MLS does to better the game, such as VAR, will all be window dressing.