The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) has spoken, and Orlando City fans probably aren't going to like what they hear.
Our own Austin David raised the question on our site yesterday, and now PRO has come out to confirm our suspicions: Tranquillo Barnetta's game-winning free kick goal against Orlando City in the 90th minute on Friday night should not have counted, according to PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer.
As Rejer explains:
There is a clear mandate from FIFA stating if a player is deliberately standing in an offside position as a tactic, he will be declared offside.
At PRO we have discussed this tactic at our camps on numerous occasions; it has been covered on our website. Our officials have been instructed that the referee should be proactive by clearly warning the offside players that they will be penalized if they remain in offside positions.
You can see that Marrufo does this, however AR Peter Balciunas does not raise his flag and the goal is incorrectly allowed.
The referees have been a massive story in the early part of this MLS season, mostly for their deliberate issuing of red cards to players, but here we find ourselves discussing a referee failing to notice another wrongdoing that, in this case, potentially cost Orlando City at least a point, as they likely still would have gone on to draw the Union, 1-1. Clearly not every ref understands the rules of the game -- or at least isn't educated enough to notice them -- and that's an issue.
And while it's not totally unusual to see PRO come out and throw one of their own refs under the bus like this, it is quite refreshing to see them do this and perhaps give some Orlando City fans a little piece of mind after Friday's disappointing defeat.
Of course, there will still be many people upset, and this one play doesn't excuse Adrian Heath and his players for losing the game or for surrendering a free kick in a dangerous position in the first place.
Through their first five games, you could argue that PRO has taken five points away from Orlando City already this season -- disallowing Cyle Larin's goal against Real Salt Lake, not rewarding Larin a penalty late vs. the Chicago Fire, and now this play against the Union.
One hopes that these will even out over the course of the season. We'll see.