MLS ref goes viral for bait-and-switch VAR announcement, calling back St. Louis City SC goal

St. Louis fans weren't happy about the sudden twist of fate

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUN 22: St. Louis City forward Indiana Vassilev (19) and Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (1) debate the foul called that called of a St. Louis City goal during a MLS regular season game between St. Louis CITY SC and Atlanta United on June 22, 2024, at CITYPARK Stadium in St. Louis City, MO. (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
St. Louis City forward Indiana Vassilev (center) and Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (right) debate the foul called by referee Filip Dujic that called back a St. Louis City goal. (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For some MLS fans, VAR can feel fickle — but St. Louis City SC fans were in for a rude surprise on Saturday night.

In the first half of St. Louis' home match against Atlanta United, an early St. Louis goal was called back after VAR review. The goal was checked for both offsides and a foul in the buildup to the goal — and while there no offsides, the referee team ruled that there had been a foul, meaning that the goal was taken back after all.

The clip of referee Filip Dujic making the announcement about the unconventional call has gone viral on social media. In the video, Dujic announces that there was no offsides, prompting cheers from the St. Louis crowd. He then gestures for the crowd to hold on and lower the cheers, before announcing the foul and the result — no goal, and a direct free kick in Atlanta's favor.

The clip, while going viral mostly for Dujic's slight smirk as he dashed fans' hopes of an early lead, also represents a new era of MLS VAR.

In April, MLS announced a new series of rules as the regular season began, which were initially delayed due to the referee lockout between PRO and PSRA. Two of the new rules are related to time wasting, around injury treatment and substitution, but the third is the introduction of in-stadium VAR announcements.

Per MLS, VAR decisions are now explained and announced by the center referee, with the referee's voice coming in over the loudspeaker. The change gives fans both in-stadium and at home a chance to understand the meaning behind the verdict, especially in high-stakes reviews related to goals and fouls.

In the end, St. Louis had to settle for a 1-1 draw: St. Louis midfielder Indiana Vassilev, who had an assist on the goal that was called back, scored in the 50th minute. However, Atlanta equalized 20 minutes later, with a shot from striker Daniel Ríos.