Orlando City is now seven games into its inaugural Major League Soccer campaign and, heading into Sunday evening's match against Toronto FC, the Lions have reached a point where they will begin to monitor yellow card accumulation for players individually.
Unlike red cards, which warrant an automatic one-game suspension and $250 fine, in addition to expulsion from the game in progress, the MLS Disciplinary Committee begins handing out punishment for yellow cards once a player has accumulated five on the season. The league's policy on yellow cards is spelled out on its official site.
A player will be suspended for one game upon receiving his fifth yellow card – regardless of the nature of the infraction that resulted in his being awarded a yellow card. A second suspension of one game would result after the awarding of three additional cards, as would a third suspension for the awarding of card number eleven.
Prior to the season, MLS placed emphasis on dissent and persistent infringement. Referees will be keen to hand out bookings when these infractions occur, but so far OCSC has only had one yellow card due to either of these issues, with the rest coming either for standard fouls, time wasting or simulation, which happened three times against New York City FC in the opener.
Below is a table summarizing Orlando City players' current yellow and red card situations.
As the table shows, Amobi Okugo is the only OCSC player currently in danger of a yellow card suspension, having accumulated four bookings on the season. One more, and Okugo will be dealt a one-match suspension and the Lions will have to deal without their go-to number six in the central midfield.
Oftentimes, defenders and defensive midfielders, like Okugo, will commit tactical fouls to prevent an opponent from capitalizing on an opportunity after a quick turnover or change of possession. By committing the foul, the player essentially agrees to take the yellow card in order to stop play and give the team an opportunity to set up defensively. This can lead to faster accumulation at the back, in addition to the fact that these players are already doing more defensive work than attacking midfielders and strikers.
Okugo will have an opportunity to benefit from the league's "Good Behavior" incentive if he can keep a clean record over the course of Orlando's next several outings.
When one yellow card away from being suspended for caution accumulation, if a player appears in three consecutive games without receiving a yellow card or disciplinary sanction, the player will have one yellow card expunged. A player may take advantage of the "Good Behavior" incentive only once throughout the season.
If Okugo is able to navigate Orlando's next three fixtures – Toronto, New England on May 8, and at D.C. United on May 13 – without another yellow or a straight red, his fourth yellow card will be wiped off the slate and his season total will go back down to three. If he does get booked in any of those three games, he will be able to make another run at the Good Behavior rule prior to his eighth yellow of the season.
Other than Okugo, the Lions are currently in good standing in accordance with the Disciplinary Committee regulations. Even central defender Aurélien Collin, who many pegged as a bit of a hot head following his sending off against NYCFC, has only been cautioned once outside of that incident.
On Sunday against Toronto FC, right back Rafael Ramos will serve his one-game ban following his red card at Columbus last Saturday, but otherwise the young Portuguese defender is clean in terms of cautions.