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Crew fans shout profanity, toss water bottle at refs after controversial Open Cup loss to Atlanta

Fans could face sanctions after refs don’t call late penalty in favor of Crew

Fans boo referees as they leave the pitch with a security escort following the Columbus Crew's 3-2 loss to Atlanta United during the U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio. (Ben Ferree/Pro Soccer USA)

COLUMBUS, Ohio- Columbus Crew SC lost 3-2 to Atlanta United in the U.S. Open Cup, and the game ended on a play that many Crew players felt should’ve been a penalty. Defenders Alex Crognale and Gaston Sauro ran up to the center official, Guido Gonzalez Jr., and began yelling at him. As this happened, Gonzalez backed away to huddle with his assistant referee when a fan from the stands threw a water bottle at him. More players surrounded the officials, who then requested a police escort off the field. 

As the police walked the officiating team off the field, Crew fans gathered around the edges of the stands, getting as close to the field as possible to shout profanity and make obscene hand gestures. 

MAPFRE Stadium policy states, “Guests shall not interfere with the view or enjoyment of other guests by fighting, throwing objects, or using profane, sexist, racial, obscene, or abusive language or gestures.”

Columbus Crew officials released a statement after the match that read, “Guests who fail to abide by the code of conduct, as determined by stadium management, may be ejected from the facility, subject to arrest, and/or banned from further events.”

The liaison for officials was upset with the conduct he saw after the match.

“It’s pathetic. It’s ruining the beautiful game,” the liaison said. “This game isn’t that important to try and cause physical harm to someone. … I remember back in the day, people used to throw batteries at my guys in this stadium. You can’t have that happen. It’s ruining the game … there will be punishment for this. People will get banned. And if it continues, you’ll eventually have games in empty stadiums.”

He stressed that officials did the right thing by getting a police escort off of the field, which they are trained to do any time they are attacked by fans or players.

Columbus head coach Caleb Porter described the end of game officiating as “shocking.” 

“They trial officials in this competition and see how they do, and it’s disappointing. You need high level officials that know how to smell a game and manage a game,” Porter said. “You can’t throw stuff at officials obviously, but [the reaction] was normal. In a game like this where it’s do or die, you win or advance, you lose or go home, there’s a lot of emotion … it happens where at the end of the game people voice their opinions and then they get out of there.”

The Crew will have to move on from the loss quickly. They host Sporting Kansas City in league play on Sunday.

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