Late in the first half of the Columbus Crew’s match against Sporting Kansas City, referee Robert Sibiga consulted the video assistant referee before issuing Federico Higuain a red card for a tackle he said endangered the safety of an opponent.
Crew SC successfully appealed its captain’s red card, according to a statement released Friday by the league.
“The Independent Panel, consisting of one representative from the United States Soccer Federation, one representative from the Canadian Soccer Association, and one independent representative nominated by the Professional Referee Organization, has unanimously rescinded the one-game suspension and accompanying fine for the red card issued to Columbus Crew SC midfielder Federico Higuaín for violent conduct in the 45+ minute of Crew SC’s match against Sporting Kansas City on May 27,” the statement read.
Higuain will now be available for selection when the Crew host Toronto FC at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Although the suspension was overturned, Higuain was fined by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner. Additionally, Cristian Martinez received a two-game suspension for slapping SKC player Seth Sinovic. The slap went unpunished in game, as it was not seen by either the center official or VAR.
From the onset of video review, MLS and PRO stated the VAR system would only be used to correct “clear and obvious errors.” Iffy calls or judgement calls that weren’t clear, wouldn’t be overturned, they said.
But despite multiple officials reviewing the Crew SC play, a mistake was still made — one that forced Columbus to play down a man for the entire half of its 0-0 draw with SKC.
It is at least the second time this season a red card issued after video review was later overturned on appeal. The other was Kendall Waston’s red card during Vancouver’s match against Atlanta.
Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter did not comment on the decision. A representative for PRO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Watch the play that led to the initial red card on Higuain below.