Analysis: Austin FC (a). Orlando City Are Robbed By PRO, In Otherwise Entertaining 2-2 Draw.
This piece is going to look a little different to what it normally does. Normally I dissect the particular nuances of Orlando City's performance, discussing exactly what went wrong and what went well. I can't talk about that right now. All I will say is, the players did everything they could to get 3 points. It's just a shame that, that was never going to matter. I should be waxing lyrical about how Mauricio Pereyra was at his brilliant best, how Ruan scored how or how calm Ercan Kara was when presented with an early chance. But no, as usual Joe Dickerson, you made it all about you.
Today, as I'm sat on about 5 hours sleep, still silently seething, it's clear to me what went wrong. PRO referees, and specifically Joe Dickerson. I didn't log into the post match media availability, my mood was that foul.
As refereeing performances go, this was arguably the worst I have ever seen. And I truly mean that. Now before I launch my verbal tirade in earnest, let me make something clear. I do not begrudge Austin FC. Not at all. They are a very good team. Which is what makes this result all the more galling. To take a 2-0 lead at Q2 Stadium is bloody hard work. Realistically it could've been more, although they were more than in the game. Austin could've rescued the game without the intervention of Dickerson. And that would've been fair enough.
Now, for pre-text I'm going to include the exact wording for the handball rule according to IFAB (the lawmakers for global soccer). Every country under FIFA follows the IFAB rules. This is the rule that PRO are meant to follow:
Following this clarification, it is a handball offence if a player: -deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball;
-touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player's body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised; or
-scores in the opponent's goal, directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper; or -immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental.
Now, the first handball, I don't have too much of an issue with. Do, I think it's harsh? A little, but it's an awkward movement from Rodrigo Schlegel. He does make himself bigger, so a free-kick is probably the correct call. This call, though, and the screenshot in figure 1, make the second call all the more difficult to stomach. It's obviously a normal position for Schlegel's arm to be in, and it's not moving towards
Figure 1 is a screenshot from the IFAB rule changes presentation in March 2021.
Now, if you look at the footage and images in figures 2, 3 and 4, you'll see exactly how egregious this call is. Schlegel's arm could not be closer to his body. Short of glueing his arm to his side, I'm not sure what else the Argentine defender can do. How he's made his body unnaturally bigger (see the above wording). Or deliberate. It truly is a mind boggling call. It's either incompetence or corruption. The call is moronic in the extreme. And since when is a handball an automatic yellow card!?
Figure 2 is a video clip of the call.
Figure 3 what!?
Figure 4 what!?!?!
How anyone looks at all of this, in the context of the IFAB rules, and thinks that's a penalty does not understand the laws of the game, or the game itself. The referee has to make the final call:
The assistance from the video assistant referee (VAR) will relate to using replay(s) of the incident. The referee will make the final decision which may be based solely on the information from the VAR and/or the referee reviewing the replay footage directly (‘on-field review’).
Dickerson doesn't even look at the monitor. Just makes the decision based off of what he's told. Again, hasn't followed the rule correctly. But, at this point why bother? Might as well just make it up. Nice one, Joe.
The corner that led to the leveller
Now, this one, in all fairness doesn't require the use of VAR:
The referee may be assisted by a video assistant referee (VAR) only in the event of a ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’ in relation to:
direct red card (not second caution)
mistaken identity when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player of the offending team
Whilst the corner eventually leads to the goal, the actual goal is technically a different passage of play, so my understanding is the VAR cannot be used here.
That being said, how do you miss this as an on-field call!? If you look at the referee's position in the tweet in figure 5. How do you miss that? At best it's gross incompetence, at worst it's blatant corruption. And this keeps happening. To other fans we might sound like we're moaning, and we are. But this happens to us constantly, Nashville at home, last season, Chicago away this, the Red Bulls at home...
The incompetence on display by the officials continues to hold this league back. The Cesar Araujo sending off is the correct call, it was silly and petulant. But do I think that happens without the penalty and red card for Schlegel? Probably not. I mean, Orlando's discipline isn't great, but I think it's hard for the team to keep calm when they get screwed so badly, every damn week.
I'd say PRO needs to do better, but we all know they won't. They're a joke of an organisation. Across both MLS and NWSL they are constantly getting it wrong. I firmly believe they are a huge part of what holds both leagues back. Neither league will ever be considered among the world's elite until PRO improve. I'm sick of turning on Sky Sports News here in the UK and seeing segments about what bullshit call they have made this week. You want foreign news agencies to be playing clips of great goals and pieces of play. They do show them, but with the caveat of 'oh, but look at this utter nonsense.'
I know you won't PRO, you're either unwilling or unable to, but... Do better.
Ahhh, that was rather therapeutic. I feel better now.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“First just allow me to recognize the effort of the players today trying to overcome all those things that happened especially in the end and the second half. I guess we have to take it. We played a very good game until these things came. Very smart play by the players with a lot of intensity, a lot of discipline.”