Philadelphia Union receive a ‘No’ from MLS, while Curtin questions league’s decision

Below is a transcription of Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin’s opening statement of Thursday’s press conference with the media. Philadelphia’s captain, Alejandro Bedoya, was shown a second yellow card and a subsequent red card during his team’s 3-1 loss at Atlanta United FC last Saturday, June 2nd. The head referee during the match, Sorin Stoica, fell under heavy scrutiny for his decision to send Bedoya off. Philadelphia filed an official appeal with MLS in hopes of lifting Bedoya’s one-game suspension ahead of Friday night’s clash with Toronto. The league denied that appeal. 

Jim Curtin watches on as his side go down to nine men vs Atlanta.

Yesterday’s weekly press conference with Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin revealed a rather unfortunate truth about MLS: the league’s officiating is continuously under question.

Curtin took the podium, cleared his throat, grabbed the microphone and delivered some stunning news. In what seemed like an ideal situation for Philadelphia – appealing the suspension of their captain midfielder Alejandro Bedoya following an unnecessary sending off – ended in disappointment.

MLS league offices informed Philadelphia that the appeal was denied. The official report, which Curtin discussed at length to open the press conference, sullied Bedoya’s character. Sorin Stoica, the head referee during the Atlanta United FC match in which Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin were sent off just 19 minutes into the match, stated Bedoya was verbally abusive towards him. Bedoya has since denied those claims. In fact, both Bedoya and Curtin stand as a unified force against the misinformation used to file the league report.

Curtin did not hold back Thursday afternoon. His comments reflected the gravity of the situation. His team will be without their captain – their central midfield rock – so to speak. All because of a silly drama-filled situation between a group of referees and one player.

Below is a transcription of Curtin’s opening statement yesterday afternoon.

Jim Curtin’s opening statement on Alejandro Bedoya & Toronto FC (transcribed)

“Just to start off, we’ve been informed from the league offices that Ale Bedoya will not be partaking in this weekend’s game. We will lose our captain.

Just to clarify some of the events from the report, different things. I will stick to the truth. The truth is undefeated, so I will continue to speak the truth like our club always does. Ale was issued a second yellow card for what was described as dissent by word or action – that is a referee  blurb in the report.  Further in the report, it says that Ale was dismissed for dissent by word. Ale is adamant that he did not speak to the referee [Sorin Stoica] in this instance. I believe Ale Bedoya. I trust Ale Bedoya.

There was a case and obviously we appealed it. A case was put forward with video evidence. We attempted to get a third-party to contribute to it: a member of Atlanta. It was close to happening but in the end didn’t happen because there is long-term effects of, you know, potentially seeing referees in the future. So I understand it from that regard.

Now, as you look forward and dig deeper, you hear that the referee in question said that Ale called him a F word and called him a cheat. Again, when that got back to Ale, he completely says that is false. So again, I think there’s some misinformation out there. People say ‘Yeah, he is in violation with the action of stepping in and delaying a restart.’ But is it ridiculous to give a second yellow card for that? Absolutely. But if it [second yellow] was deemed for the action of stepping in and delaying a restart than I could live with it because, yes, that is what he did. He did delay a restart, like a veteran would. But, to call Ale’s character under question I think is wrong. And now you get into our word vs. their word when an independent panel that involves referees – they’re going to side with [Stoica]. We still went through with the appeal process because it’s important to have the backs of our players.

Now, when we look back on it, it’s a scenario where we told the truth. I sleep well at night. I know Ale Bedoya sleeps well at night. You can question how other people sleep – that’s not for me to comment on – I don’t know that answer.

Moving forward we’ll be without our captain. A difficult task with a Toronto team that’s coming in that isn’t where they want to be in the table after an amazing Champions League run. Still an incredibly talented group, a dangerous group. One that we will have to execute and be up to the task of playing at our highest level. It is a game before the World Cup break, so we want to put on a good performance for our fans and go into the break with a good taste in our mouths. We’ve been playing some very good soccer over the recent weeks – in the Open Cup and in league play. Again, we want to keep that going.

It starts with Giovinco and Michael Bradley and preparing for them – doing our best to contain their best players. We create chances at home. I think our record over the last 20 games here in Talen Energy is 14-2-4***, so a pretty solid record. We’re pretty confident when we’re in this building. We need to keep that going, execute, and have everybody do their job.”

*** = 14-3-3 at Talen Energy Stadium dating back to May 6, 2017.

Now what?

So who is the member of Atlanta United that almost stood up in defense of Bedoya against Stoica’s claims? And what exactly were the ‘long term effects’ this member would have to face if Stoica officiated a match of his further down the line?

Clear speculation here, but the only Atlanta player remotely close to the chaotic outbursts following Stoica’s mishandling of the situation was Jeff Larentowicz. Perhaps the West Chester native felt the urge to clear the air surrounding the alleged verbal abuse from Bedoya. Or maybe it wasn’t Larentowicz at all.

That information will remain behind sealed lips.

What information we do know, is that if Philadelphia plays another match officiated by Stoica, fireworks will be the results. Those fireworks won’t be the result of a goal celebration either. They’ll more than likely come in the form expletives.

What is there to be learned?

First and foremost, MLS and it’s officials have little to no knowledge regarding damage control.

The league was presented with a simple situation: rectify an official’s embarrassing display of officiating by granting Philadelphia the appeal, thus allowing Bedoya to play Friday night.

Instead, the league doubled down on claims of verbal abuse from one of the more respected American soccer players of the last decade. The league threw Bedoya under the bus. Perhaps Stoica simply doesn’t understand the magnitude of the situation. Stoica went on record via an official league report stating Bedoya questioned his own character, using the word ‘cheat.’

That’s a heavy accusation to make. Especially after video evidence could be found suggesting no verbal abuse of that kind even occurred.

However, what’s done is done. Philadelphia will welcome Toronto without their most experienced central midfielders in Bedoya and Medunjanin. Bradley and Giovinco will lace up in hopes of ruining Philly’s night.

In other words, life and the league moves on.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports