And as it turns out, the Petke and the Crew were right to be confused: The penalty should've never been given in the first place.
PRO, the Professional Referees Organization, formed last year to help raise the quality of officiating in the U.S. and Canada, essentially admitted as much in their Week 24 Plays of the Week post.
While they don't explicitly say "the penalty should've never been given" they do note a member of the Crew was in an offside position when the free kick was taken and that player attempted to play the ball. That should've blown the play dead and given the Red Bulls a free kick of their own.
Instead, Luis Robles gets clattered by a mass of white and yellow shirts, giving Federico Higuain the chance to step up to the spot for the third time against Robles. Higuain would win the rubber match to put the Crew up 1-0 before chipping him to secure the win for the Ohio side.
The blame, according to PRO, goes to the assistant referee for being out of position.
In every game, there are a few game breaking opportunities that set a team up for a win or a loss. Higuain beating Robles on that penalty kick was that exactly. If it never happens, maybe the listless Red Bulls hold on for a draw, as the second goal was as much of a product of Higuain's skill as it was the Red Bulls pushing.
Anyway, it's cold comfort for Red Bulls fans who are now scratching their heads on how Petke and company will remedy the team's road woes, but it's the closest thing to a mea cupla we're going to get, so enjoy it, I suppose.