Analysis of the USMNT's downfall in Copa America and how it explains the controversial goal that favored Uruguay


The United States Men’s National Team was sent crashing out of its home Copa America Monday night thanks to a controversial goal from Uruguay. 

The USA suffered heartbreak in Kansas City as they lost the must-win clash against Uruguay 1-0, sending them packing. However, Monday’s Group C finale in Kansas City didn’t only end in tears but also controversy. 

Christian Pulisic was caught telling Peruvian referee Kevin Ortega that he and his team of officials should celebrate with the Uruguay players after the lone goal proved to be a point of contention for the Americans. 

One frame appeared to show Olivera clearly offside at the moment teammate Ronald Araujo headed the ball forward. So, how was the goal allowed to stand? 

Mathias Olivera (left) scored a controversial goal during Uruguay's 1-0 win over the USA

Mathias Olivera (left) scored a controversial goal during Uruguay’s 1-0 win over the USA 

Conmebol released a video showing the VAR check of the goal following backlash

Conmebol released a video showing the VAR check of the goal following backlash  

Following the uproar, Conmebol released footage from inside the VAR check as they reviewed the play leading up to Olivera’s heavily-disputed tap home. 

The goal came in the 66th minute when Araujo got his head to a free kick, which USA goalkeeper Matt Turner failed to hold. 

Olivera pounced on the ball Turner had spilled and tapped in to see Uruguay take the lead. 

The Stars and Stripes appealed for offside, leading to a chaotic review by the VAR team. 

VAR officials Orbe Ruiz and Carlos Anibal can be heard beginning to examine the moment, applying the crosshair technology to Olivera and USA defender Chris Richards – the last American player.

Meanwhile, over the slightly frantic audio, referee Ortega can be heard assuring the furious and likely baffled Americans on the field that an offside check is being carried out. 

Ortega clarifies multiple times the call is being examined all while the VAR team try to communicate with him and among themselves. 

As Ortega attempts to placate the USA, the VAR assistant begins drawing the lines on Olivera and Richards, which appear to finally rule that the Uruguayan is being played onside by the defender’s big toe. 

Referee Kevin Ortega could be heard telling players on the field that a check was underway

Referee Kevin Ortega could be heard telling players on the field that a check was underway

Olivera (left) celebrates his goal while USA players immediately appeal for offside

Olivera (left) celebrates his goal while USA players immediately appeal for offside 

‘[The VAR’s virtual lines tool] identifies that the attacker who scores a goal was on the same line as the second-to-last defender,’ the video released by Conmebol explains. ‘Using the latter’s foot as a reference, generating a single line at the same height as the defender and the attacker, which does not constitute an offside offense.’ 

The ruling still appears dubious to the naked eye due to the angle. However, there’s more to the Olivera decision than there initially appears to be. 

With crosshair technology, players are given onside if the lines are touching – thanks to the benefit of the doubt working in the attacker’s favor. 

In the video released by Conmebol, the VAR team goes back and forth before determining the point of contact from Araujo using multiple angles and frames. 

They then move the offside line to Richards’ foot before placing the vertical crosshair line onto Olivera. 

With this technology, if a player is onside or offside, a red line is displayed for the attacker, and a blue line for the defender. However, if the two lines touch a single blue line shows. 

When the line is initially moved onto Olivera, the red attacker line is present. Yet, when it is moved onto his knee, that line automatically disappears and a sole blue line is shown as the lines are deemed to touch. 

As the VAR team carry out the check with crosshair technology, two lines are shown

As the VAR team carry out the check with crosshair technology, two lines are shown

When the attacker's red line is moved to Olivera's knee, it is deemed that the lines touch

When the attacker’s red line is moved to Olivera’s knee, it is deemed that the lines touch 

For that reason, VAR rules that Olivera was level with Richards at the moment Araujo headed the ball, leading the on-field decision to stand.  

After two minutes of back and forth between the VAR team and Ortega over different angles, they make the ruling on Olivera’s goal. However, the calamity continues as they rewind further to double check the moment the free kick is taken, before swiftly confirming all Uruguayan players are onside. 

The decision eliminated the USA from their home tournament only two years before they are set to co-host the World Cup, leading for calls for head coach Gregg Berhalter to be fired. 

Meanwhile, after topping Group C with nine points out of nine, Uruguay’s quarter-final opponents will be the team that finishes second in Group D. That will likely be Brazil or Colombia – who will play each other on Tuesday night.



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