Saturday night Orlando City captain Kaká saw a straight red card for the first time in his long and illustrious career. The decision shocked some for a player with a very clean disciplinary record. But after looking at referee Sorin Stoica's record of sending offs, it may not be such a surprise.
The incident occurred Saturday night as Orlando City took on Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah. Moments before the end of the first half, Kaká lost the ball to Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales. As Morales stumbled forward toward the end line, Kaká rushed back to retrieve the ball, pushing Morales down from behind in the process.
Stoica originally appeared to reach for his yellow card but, after hearing the opinion of his assistant referee nearby, changed the decision to red. The assistant appears to tell Stoica that Kaká intentionally stomped on Morales' calf, which is considered "violent conduct" and a straight sending off.
Despite the fact that video clearly shows Stoica changing his decision based on his assistant's opinion, the head referee denied these claims when asked by pool reporter Chris Kamrani of the Salt Lake Tribune on behalf of the Orlando Sentinel's Paul Tenorio after the game.
Stoica said in pool report he gave red for violent conduct and was not influenced by AR. Then how can he explain pulling out yellow first?— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) July 5, 2015
Replays after the incident show that Kaká appears to attempt to sidestep Morales avoiding any contact with the opponent. However, his foot lands on top of the ball rolling toward Morales who lies on the ground. Off balance, Kaká appears to accidentally step on Morales before regaining his balance on the other side of the player.
For Kaká, it was only the third sending off in a career that dates back to 2001. His first sending off famously came in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa against the Ivory Coast. Kaká received his first yellow in the 85th minute of that game for a push against Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure. Just a minute later, the midfielder was sent off for the first time in his career when, as Abdelkader Keita came toward him, he put his forearm out to stop Keita from bumping into him, touching him on the chest. Keita quickly grabbed his face and Kaká was shown his second yellow followed by the red card.
The second sending off for Kaká came three years later while playing for Real Madrid. In a 2013 league match against Osasuna, Kaká came off the bench and was quickly booked for jumping into Osasuna's Oier. Then, in the 76th minute and just 25 minutes after entering the game, he was sent off for his part in a confrontation with several Osasuna players.
For Stoica, who issued the red to Kaká, it was a typical decision. Stoica has gained a reputation for sending off players as he's done so at a rapid rate in his career. According to the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) website, in the last three years as an MLS referee, Stoica has officiated 28 matches and sent off an astounding 17 players. This year alone, Stoica has now sent off five players in just seven matches.
With the replay appearing to be on their side, Orlando City is still choosing not to appeal the decision, not wanting to risk an uphill battle against the MLS Disciplinary Committee. In order to have a red card rescinded, the committee -- which consists of a member of U.S. Soccer, a member of the Canadian Soccer Association, and a member of the PRO -- would have to unanimously decide on the decision. PRO does not typically like to admit a referee made a mistake.