The Portland Timbers weren’t left with just any typical disappointing defeat on Sunday. The 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena left them with questions about just how they blew an early two-goal lead, and what exactly head referee Jasen Anno saw on the Red Bulls’ equalizing goal.
Just prior to New York Designated Player Tim Cahill’s tally that evened the score at 2-2 in the 45th minute, Anno appeared to blow his whistle after a shot by Dax McCarty took a deflection off Timbers defender David Horst in the box, and Timbers players stopped as Cahill fired the ball into the back of the net.
Addressing the call after the game, Timbers interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson said it was clear that Anno’s whistle blew before Cahill’s shot and play should have been stopped.
WATCH: Cahill’s controversial goal
“I’m in trouble however I answer this, aren’t I?” Wilkinson (above) said. “You saw what I saw. We’re not allowed to comment on the referee’s performance, but that second goal summed it up. We can’t get an answer out of the referee, he won’t tell us. And then you can see the replay, very clearly, that he’s blowing the whistle well before the ball has gone into the back of the net.
“Unless I had a different view to everyone else, the staff, and the players, the whistle was blowing,” Wilkinson added. “The whistle was blowing before the ball went into the back of the net and then the decision was changed.”
After the game, Anno told reporters that he blew his whistle when the ball entered the goal. He also said he allowed play to continue because it was an advantage play.
Timbers forward Bright Dike, who scored Portland’s first goal in the eighth minute, certainly didn’t see it that way, telling MLSsoccer.com that the play was a turning point in the game.
“The ref blew the whistle, so half of our team stopped and then he scores that goal,” Dike said. “As a referee I feel like you shouldn’t blow the whistle and allow an advantage at the same time. That kind of messed up the play.”
Improving on the road
Despite earning just one point on their two-game East Coast road trip, the Timbers did see some unprecedented positives.
Their 2-2 draw Wednesday with Toronto FC marked the first time the Timbers scored multiple goals on the road in their MLS existence. And taking a 2-0 lead in their 3-2 loss Sunday against New York marked the first time the Timbers have claimed a multiple-goal lead on the road.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.