Orlando City SC and the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union played out an exciting, but controversial 2-2 draw in the final home game for the Lions at the Florida Citrus Bowl before MLS breaks for the group stages of the Copa America tournament. Tranquillo Barnetta opened the scoring for Philadelphia early in the second half but Kevin Molino equalized for Orlando in minute 68 setting up a frenzied few minutes. Cyle Larin took a Kaka‘ ball and put it in the back of the net to appear to give Orlando a winner in minute 71, but that was quickly undone four minutes later by reserve Union defender Ken Tribbett who scored his first career MLS goal to close out the scoring.
The final result had Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin fuming thanks to the officials.
“I thought at 1-0 [in our favor] the game changed on the non-PK call,” Curtin said in his post match remarks. “Mistakes are going to happen by referees, we accept that, but the game changed after that. What happened with Warren was embarrassing. That was a PK and a red card, and it would have helped us for sure. “But I give my guys a lot of credit on the night. They showed a lot of character to come back from 2-1 down. This is a tough place to play and they are a strong team, one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. The tendency for [visiting] teams is to shrink in the circumstances. Instead we responded well, got our goal and pushed the game towards the end.”
Curtin also wasn’t pleased with the officiating on Larin’s goal.
“[The referee] was a long way from the play, and keeping up with things is difficult, so it was hard to judge, but we thought it was another key non-call,” Curtin said. “I think he just had an off night. That is the honest way to put it.”
This referee, Sorin Stoica was in the middle of controversy last year when his crew disallowed a perfectly legitimate Fort Lauderdale Strikers goal against the New York Cosmos in Brooklyn late on in the NASL semifinals (pictured below).
The standard of officiating needs to improve in North America and while steps are being taken by PRO who governs officials in the United States, displays like Stoica’s are all to common. Though it should be noted that for weeks many Orlando City SC fans claimed that their club had been unfairly targeted by referees but each of the last two matches the opposition has had legitimate gripes about how things have ended. In the end, perhaps all of the questionable calls even out over the course of a season.
Orlando City SC’s draw keep them within four points of conference leaders Philadelphia. The Lions travel to New York to face off with NYCFC this Sunday in a nationally televised ESPN game. Kickoff is 4:30pm and will the Orlando’s last competitive game until facing with Jacksonville or Charleston in the fourth round of the US Open Cup on June 15th.