The narrative by fans and some media here in Florida since Sunday night has been pretty clear – Orlando City SC despite being outplayed by the New York Red Bulls were robbed again by referees in the 3-2 loss in Harrison.  The continued narrative of the Lions being robbed in matches has snowballed the past few weeks with fans and media pilling on. But thanks to Taylor Twellman, ESPN soccer analyst and arguably the best American voice we have covering the sport, Cyle Larin was offside before receiving the pass which led to the non-call foul on Karl Ouimette of the Red Bulls. Twellman released the photo seen above via his Twitter feed on Monday night. The bottom line from the match is that despite an early goal, Orlando gave up an MLS season-high number of shots in the first half of the match and then wilted as New York continued to pile on pressure in the second half.

While Orlando has certainly been the recipient of some bad calls they’ve been fortunate at times also. Lions fans see this referee narrative one way, but in fact looking at then last few weeks it’s a complicated and more balanced picture than that.

For example, against Portland in a 4-1 win, Brek Shea should have been sent off early in the first half prompting MLS to take action following the match in which Shea played a major part in the Lions victory. In the controversial 2-2 draw with New England, no doubt the final call that salvaged a draw for the Revolution was farcical. But minutes earlier, Kevin Molino had according to video replays clearly handled the ball and it is also possible the foul in the first minute of the match that gave Orlando a lead thanks to a penalty kick occurred after a possible handball by the Lions’ Julio Baptista.

While Orlando was denied a point in Philadelphia by a bad call, few analysts realized it until PRO which governs professional referees in the United States made the non-call a teaching point. 

Having worked in the sport for many years and covered it even longer, I have been of the opinion that these calls tend to even out over the course of a season. Some examples might defy that, such as West Ham United this season in the (English) Premier League who have time and again seemingly been cost points by questionable calls. But historically these things tend to even out and while Orlando fans and aligned media might feel victimized right now, other teams also have legitimate gripes and as demonstrated above the Lions have benefited from some controversial calls.

It’s a long MLS season and these things tend to even out over time.

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