The pivotal moment, and the most contentious one, came on the hour mark when assistant referee Corey Rockwell pointed to the corner flag. While NYCFC players were setting up for the corner, the Red Bulls quickly took a throw-in.
Alex Muyl put the ball back into play to Marc Rzatkowski. He passed to Cristian Casseres, who found Royer on a whipped in cross and the Austrian flicked his header inside the far post for his second goal of the game.
“I’m more proud of the way the guys showed up to play today, stuck with it, go down a goal and come back, and we pushed again,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “We felt like it was coming the whole second half. We started the second half much more aggressive, compressing spaces with the ball, had courage to play, moved the ball quickly, moved gaps in the team.”
NYCFC players protested vehemently, but after a long debate on the field, the goal stood.
“If the referee thinks it’s a throw-in, he should have the decency to let everyone know,” NYCFC captain Alex Ring said. “I think it’s a game-deciding situation. He has to look in the mirror and be brutally honest because he cost us the points today.”
In a response to questions from a pool reporter after the game, the officials said in a written statement referee Alan Kelly “overruled the AR because the referee was in a better position to judge that the ball went out for a throw-in.”
When asked how the change was passed along to the players, the officials said “the referee indicated verbally that the restart was a throw-in.”
Ring said that never happened.
“He doesn’t say anything,” Ring said. “He just let play continue as if he would be part of the Red Bulls team. I think it’s just common decency if its that clear that you linesman shows to the corner flag, I agree it was a throw-in because I saw it the same way as him, but then you let everyone know.”
Heber opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season in the 7th minute to put NYCFC in front.
After some interplay between Keaton Parks and Maxi Moralez, the Argentine played out wide to Anton Tinnerholm, who whipped in an inch-perfect cross to Heber at the edge of the six-yard box. The Brazilian split Aaron Long and Amro Tarek and finished first time under the crossbar.
Brian White played a key role in the opening 45 minutes, getting on the end of a Michael Amir Murillo cross and putting a header on frame from 12 yards out in the 23rd minute only to be denied by Sean Johnson, who dived to get his left hand on the shot.
Jul 14, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York City FC midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) plays the ball against New York Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr (23) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Four minutes later, Keaton Parks tested Luis Robles, who dived to his right to parry away his shot for an NYCFC corner kick.
Despite being outplayed in the first half, the Red Bulls went into halftime level thanks to a Royer penalty kick in first-half stoppage time.
After Murillo won a ball in midfield, he slipped a pass to Alex Muyl, who played a cross onto the chest of White. Maxime Chanot raised a leg trying to intercept the ball, but made contact with White and Kelly pointed to the spot.
Royer put his penalty kick high and to the left of Johnson for his sixth goal of the season.
Ronald Matarrita, whose turnover led to the equalizer, was subbed off at halftime for Ben Sweat.
It was the second straight league loss for NYCFC, and third overall after a penalty-kick shootout ouster at Orlando City SC in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals Wednesday. NYCFC coach Dome Torrent again said he was proud of his players fo the way they played and also blasted the officials for “deciding the game.”
“Congratulations to Corey [Rockwell], the linesman. He wasn’t brave because he indicated corner,” Torrent said. “We have images about that, indicating corner. After that Alex Callens asked him if it’s a corner, he said corner. What happened, everybody knows. We are not ready because when they decide.”
With the win, the Red Bulls pushed above NYCFC in the Eastern Conference table to third place, five points behind pace-setting Philadelphia with two games in hand.
“When the calendar comes out each season, there is a few ones that you look for,” Robles said. “We knew that it was not only important to the standings and for the rivalry, but also our condition. We are in the second half of the season now and all of these Eastern Conference opponents are important.”