Poor officiating overshadows impressive Union performance

The Union scored two goals on Wednesday night, so did Orlando; the game ended in another tie. The weather in Orlando was annoying, humid and steamy; the only thing more annoying than the weather however was the officiating. There were major officiating problems in this game and some of the most egregious instances occurred on plays that either led to goals or could have led to goals. The most shocking part of this bad officiating was the blatant negligence shown by MLS of how bad it really was. The Union may have gained one point in Orlando; but, The refs stole the other two. There were four ways the refs either made decisions or did not that cost the Union the win on Wednesday night.

1.) Kaka’s penalty call.

Kaka broke through the Union defense in the 35th minute and ran past Andre Blake. Blake appears to catch the tip of Kaka’s toe. This resulted in Kaka tumbling to the ground and the referee pointing to the spot. But did Kaka sell the play? In my opinion he did. He ran through the defenders, and out of gas getting by Blake so he made sure Blake was drawn to his foot, and flopped at the slightest contact from Blake. The fall was much more dramatic than it would have been if there was contact from the Union’s keeper. This call was wrong, and luckily Kaka hit a savable ball that Blake stopped nicely.

2.) Missing Larin’s running into Blake on Orlando’s first goal. 

On Orlando’s first goal, a ball was up for grabs in the Union’s eighteen yard box. Four players went up for the ball: Blake, Fabinho, and Marquez for the Union, and Larin for Orlando. As always, Blake won the ball and had it in his hands. Unfortunately he was ran into by Larin, and the two Union defenders. The ball popped out of Blake’s hands and fell to Orlando’s Molino, who put the ball in the open net. The controversy in this goal comes from the contact with the keeper. The ref’s saw that the Union players ran into Blake. When looking closer you can see that Larin caused the majority of the hit on Blake. He should have been called for interference but instead, the game was tied in the 68th minute.

3.) Calling Orlando’s second “goal” a goal.

Three minutes after Orlando’s first goal, they got a second one, or did they? Kaka played a ball into the box and Larin hits the ball goal-wards into Blake. Blake pushes the ball up and Union defender Fabinho cleared the ball off the line. After the clearance, the ref pointed to half-field, signaling a goal. This “goal” should not have counted.

The assistant referee had a very bad angle to see if the ball actually crossed the line fully or not, and called a goal. The rule states that a goal can only be called if the full ball crosses the entire line. This did not happen, but since MLS does not have goal-line technology like other leagues in the world, the choice was left to the referee who called it a good goal. Looking back you can see the shadow of the ball not fully across the line. For an even better look at the play, check out the GIF blow. This call was very poorly seen by the officials, and cost the Union points.

4.) playing possession after a foul inside the box. 

After Orlando’s second goal the Union worked the ball down the field. Warren Creavalle found himself with some space at the front of Orlando’s box. He took the space, and looked to pass. As he was passing an Orlando defender slid into him with both feet. The ball made its way to Barnetta of the Union, and the ref decided to play advantage instead of blow for a penalty. This makes no sense! A two footed slide tackle in the box that connects with an opposing player who already passed the ball is apparently not a penalty for these refs! Instead they played possession and the Union had their shot blocked. What does not make sense here, aside from the obvious missed call by the referee, is that the Ref called for a penalty on a weaker challenge in the first half and then did not in the second. This proved that the refs were both incompetent and inconsistent. What is the league going to do about this officiating nightmare?

MLS has some explaining to do. In a tweet sent out on MLS’ account, they said that both teams walk away with split points.Why did they condone the controversial calls made by the refs? On the tweets reply thread there are many soccer fans shouting for better officiating, and for the league to recognize the straight up bad officiating of this game. I was one of the voices asking for this, but will it happen? The answer is probably not any time soon. MLS lacks the technology needed to help make these errors reversed during the game, but it hopefully is fixed in the next five years. As these poorly officiated games continue to occur, the league gets angry tweets, and comments on their officiating. Eventually MLS’ “everything is alright officiating wise” bubble has to burst, and that will bring reform, and with it replay availability/goal line technology.

The Bottom line is that this outcome can not be condoned by the league, and if they continue to sweep these types of instances under the rug, the entire league gets affected. There is a problem with MLS officiating, and the league needs to be a fix it in the next few years as more and more teams join the league in expansion.

However, even  with the referee blunders, there were some positives signs from the Union during the actual game that should be mentioned. One thing is that the Union got a result in the type of game that they probably would have lost last year. This speaks leaps and bounds on the changes made throughout the Union organization; they never quit!

More importantly this result keeps the Union’s recent unbeaten streak alive; now at six games in a row, the Union have not lost in over a month, and continue to look impressive in tough games. The Union’s first goal was a beautiful set-peace.  A service in from Tribbett was headed across the box by Pontius, and Barnetta volleyed it home past the keeper.  The Union also continue to look dangerous on restarts which is a huge difference from last year.

The last takeaway is that this was the second straight game where a centerback scored for their first ever goal for the Union. Ken Tribbett found the field after Josh Yaro went down with an injury, and his contribution was great. He notched an assist and a goal on the night. His goal was the product of being in the right place at the right time. After a short corner, a cross came in that the Orlando keeper Bendick got a hand to. The Ball feel right to Tribbett’s foot, and he netted the equalizer for the Union! These good things are hopefully signs of better things to come for Philly.

The Union did play very well on Wednesday night. If it were not for abysmal refereeing that gave Orlando breaks, the Union would have come away from Orlando with all three points. Now the Union shift their focus from Orlando to Colorado. The Union travel to Denver to get ready for their game on Saturday. This game is first in the east versus first in the west. Colorado is currently the best team in the league with eight wins and 27 points. The Union look to give Colorado their first loss at home this season.  This game will be previewed later this week by Philly Sports Network, stay tuned!

Mandatory photo credit: AP/John Raoux

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