PRO referees have been a hot topic over the last few weeks in Orlando. Orlando City has dropped points in three straight matches, all of which included controversial calls or no-calls by officials. Head Coach Adrian Heath, his players, and fans alike have all been frustrated by the officials and blamed them for influencing the game. Now some may feel like this only happens in MLS or only to Orlando all the time, but it really doesn't. In every sport and every level of the game, the referees have an influence in the matches.
Let me give you a personal example. For four years, I was part of a Division-II basketball team, over at nearby Rollins College in Winter Park. Over those four years I witnessed -- more times than I can count -- referee calls that were either considered good, bad, horrible or even game changing.
My first year, we were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament after a foul wasn't called on the final shot of the game. My third year, we were knocked out of the conference final after a referee didn't call an obvious foul on a layup with only seconds left in the game. My fourth year, we had one of our best players foul out in an important conference game after not committing the foul or even being near where the foul occurred. In each instance, there would usually be an email after a few days from the head of the referee committee, apologizing about a missed call or what not. I also remember from all of those games that our coaches and players, who would complain to the refs about the calls, continued to coach and play the game despite the bad fortune.
The most memorable thing that was said during those situations came from Tom Klusman, head coach of over 36 years at Rollins and fifth-most successful active coach in NCAA Division II history in terms of wins. During halftime of most of these games, he would say how bad the refs were, how they were missing calls, and how they would continue to do so in the second half. However, he would also say that we couldn't worry about what the refs were going to do. They were going to affect the game one way or the other. What we needed to do was go out and "play our game," and not focus on what the refs would or wouldn't do. We needed to let our play dictate the result, not the refs' whistles.
This same lesson can be applied to Orlando City. Sunday in New York, the focus landed on the no-call that came in the second half, when Cyle Larin was chopped down as he was going in on goal. That's only one play in the full 90-minute match in which Orlando did not play very well. It's perfectly fine to complain about it and feel hard done by the ref swallowing his whistle, but Orlando players can't let it get to them mentally. The longer a missed call lingers in your mind, the more susceptible you are to letting a game-changing play happen. I'm not saying that happened in this case, but momentum clearly shifted once New York scored its first goal.
So, the moral of this whole story is that Orlando's coaches and players need to do what they can on the pitch to get a result, no matter the circumstances or referee decisions. Focus on what they can control, and it's possible that the Lions can keep their mettle and get some results, even in the face of some inconsistent officiating.