Full Disclaimer: I said on this week's PawedCast that I thought David Mateos did a great job defending and is a terrific addition to our team. His strength and keen positioning has been a welcome sight to the team since his signing and believe me, we are glad to have any strength on the team that keeps us from conceding goals.
However; we have had a really hard season with refereeing. In fact, the game against Sporting KC was probably one of the best ref'd matches we have had all season. The boys were allowed to play, stupid calls which stopped the flow were scarce, and when a call was made, it seemed fair and deserving.
We here at The Mane Land certainly started to sound like sore losers and broken records (yours truly included) with our near-weekly commentary about the Lions getting pummeled with bad calls for perceived indiscretions. We can all remember back to the opening match against NYCFC when we received three yellow cards for simulation, all of which were hogwash. Questions began to be thrown around the league by sports writers and commentators including Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman about whether Orlando players struggled with gravity or were simply coached into diving like Italian prima donnas.
We had finally started to get past that, I thought. Then David Mateos Oscar-worthy performance last Sunday evening threw Orlando City right back into the melee for proving the pundits right: all along our crying foul was just crying wolf.
It's bad enough that Mateos' flop was caught front and center of the giant screen for all to see, but it was adding insult to injury that he decided to go after the one player on the opposing side that should have been off limits. Orlando City fans love Dom Dwyer. Dom Dwyer loves us. We are his #SpiritualHome. Head Coach Adrian Heath was fined for a passing comment about bringing Dom "home" and Dom has repeatedly said he wants to come back. Messing with him, for fans, is messing with one of our own.
So, for the guy on our roster who has clocked fewer minutes in purple than the guy he faked getting clocked by, the result was just insulting to the fans. Dom got a rousing applause from the supporters' section after being sent off, but my sentiments towards David Mateos were not as kind.
It's easy to look back, nearly a week later and criticize (as I am doing here) and over-analyze (again, yes) "what was David Mateos thinking" when he provoked Dom Dwyer -- because he did, we all saw it -- into turning around and taking a thump at him. At that moment, though, it wasn't a thought; it was instinct. "Fake an injury to the face, that will get me a foul," Mateos must have thought. We all know this because we see it every week. Sometimes, more often than not, the camera or the referee doesn't get the benefit of seeing it so blatantly, but we know it happens far more often than it ever should.
This is why Mateos deserved more than just a fine. He deserved at least a one-game ban, perhaps even two. Because the league didn't give it to him, Orlando City should. The team should publicly reprimand the behavior and get out in front of it, showing that this sort of thing isn't tolerated within the club.
This harsh punishment is integral to the culture of Orlando City and its ethos of doing "what is right." When Rafael Ramos was shown a red card for a hard tackle against Hernán Grana of Columbus Crew back in April, immediately after the game, he took to Twitter and apologized, saying "I apologize myself to the team, every member of the club and every fan! It won't happen again." David Mateos has made no such public apology and I believe he owes us one.
All of us who lose our voices every week screaming for our team, we are collectively supporting our boys to go out there and play their best. It's then heartbreaking when bad refereeing leads to another undeserved loss because bad calls go against us based on reputation and perception.
Fighting back against a reputation is a hard, uphill battle. It's easier to earn a bad rep than to shake one off. What David Mateos managed to do in one thoughtless moment will cost us for the rest of this season and beyond. Repairing the damage is going to be hard, but it has to start at home and the club needs to make an example of David Mateos and show that this is not how Orlando City plays, to ease the minds of fans and detractors alike.