In the 32nd minute of Orlando City's 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls Saturday night, Lions striker Cyle Larin was sent off for a studs up challenge on Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan. It was the sixth red card for the team this season and the third straight game a Lion has been sent off. With these last three red cards, the Lions are inching closer to history.
Orlando City's disciplinary record was relatively tame for the majority of the season. Aurelien Collin was sent off late in the club's inaugural MLS match on March 8 against New York City FC. The next sending off wasn't until April 18 when Rafael Ramos lost his cool following a mistake, which led to a Columbus Crew goal. A rash challenge led to the team's second red card. The third came in San Jose on May 24 via Brek Shea. It was the first questionable red card of the season but the third for the team in 2015.
This current run of reds started on July 4 in Sandy, Utah when Kaká was accused of stepping on Javier Morales' calf. A week later, Luke Boden was sent off at home against FC Dallas when the left back was issued his second yellow with just moments remaining. Larin's dismissal Saturday night was the team's sixth red card of the season.
The MLS team record for most red cards in a season was in 2000 when the New York MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) were dismissed 11 times. Recently, three teams have come close to achieving that number. The 2011 New England Revolution, 2013 Seattle Sounders, and 2014 FC Dallas accumulated 10 dismissals each, but none reached the league record.
Last year, FC Dallas looked as though they would be the team to reach that milestone. In mid-June, the hoops had racked up eight red cards with more than half of the season still to play. But cooler heads prevailed as the second half of the season commenced and they only drew two for the remainder of the season.
Orlando City has played 20 games so far this season which means they have 14 left to go. Having picked up six ejections over those 20 games, it would generally be assumed that they would fall short of the record set by Saturday night's opponent. But the rate that they have received the expulsions over the last three weeks changes that perception.
Another interesting aspect to the recent rash of dismissals is the players they have been issued to. In the last two games, Boden and Larin were given ejections for the first time in their career. As for the time before that, Kaká is widely considered one of the cleanest players in the sport. Other than a second yellow in 2013 for Real Madrid and a very controversial sending off in the 2010 World Cup, the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year hadn't been sent off since his early days at Sao Paulo.
Part of the reason for the high number of red cards for Orlando City is who they've been dealt as referees. Two weeks ago, when Kaká was dismissed, the referee was Sorin Stoica, who has sent off five players this season and had sent off 17 players in 28 games following that decision.
While this week's referee, Fotis Bazakos, had not sent off a player this season, he is third among all PRO referees in yellow cards per game -- and the decision to send off Larin was that of fourth official, Ted Unkel, who has now sent off six this year, and awarded four penalties in last week's match between Toronto FC and New York City FC.
With 14 games remaining for the Lions in the 2015 MLS regular season, Orlando City sits just five red cards behind the 2000 MetroStars for the MLS single-season record. While it's a dubious record to hold, the Lions are nevertheless quickly approaching that number. And if they happen to draw certain referees, that record could be broken this season.