Ted Unkel was wrong, said the Independent Panel, unanimously.
Rafael Ramos’ red card shown in the 26th minute of Orlando City’s 0-0 draw Sunday night against the Chicago Fire has been overturned. Ramos will not be fined and is available for the Lions’ next match. The Independent Panel consists of one representative each from the United States Soccer Federation, the Canadian Soccer Association, and the Professional Referees Organization.
The story was first published by Alicia DelGallo of the Orlando Sentinel and shortly thereafter confirmed by both the club and Major League Soccer.
Here’s the play, which you’ve probably seen at least a few times:
Referee Ted Unkel ruled that Rafael Ramos had committed a serious foul play when he was tracking an aerial ball and completely oblivious to the charging Brandon Vincent coming in from the other side. The call put the Lions down a man early in what promised to be an entertaining game on national television, hampering Orlando’s chances to win the game. Those chances completely evaporated when Antonio Nocerino was sent off in the second half, leaving the Lions with only eight field players.
Under MLS rules, each club is entitled to two unsuccessful appeals per season, including playoffs. Because the Lions were successful in their appeal, the team maintains two unsuccessful challenges for any future dismissals for the remainder of the 2017 season. The club did not challenge Nocerino’s 66th-minute red card, which would have been much more difficult to overturn because the decision must be unanimous to overturn a red card.
Unkel’s decision was controversial from the start and sparked outrage on social media (although, in fairness, what doesn’t? Am I right?) and angered Orlando City fans. The reversal of Unkel’s decision doesn’t affect the result but should at least serve as a bit of salve.
Orlando City hosts Miami FC in U.S. Open Cup action next Wednesday, June 14, and the Montreal Impact will visit on Saturday, June 17 in the next league match.