Through 51 minutes Orlando City absolutely controlled the match against the Columbus Crew. Then in the 52nd minute, PRO Referee Ramy Touchan went to the sideline and evidently saw something that no one else did. The result of his video review was a red card for Nani. This unimaginably poor call has several ramifications for Orlando City heading into the final match against Nashville. Let’s look at the fallout.
The most obvious result is that Nani was sent off, and a mere four minutes later the Crew tied the score on a goal from Harrison Afful. But was the red card deserved? The short answer is no, but here’s another look at it if you’re memory isn’t completely clear.
Handing Nani a STRAIGHT RED CARD for this — AFTER looking at VAR — is one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in my entire life.— Lucas Dolengowski (@LDolengowski) November 5, 2020
Inexcusable beyond all measure. That referee should be fired. pic.twitter.com/b5iBG6hlWF
Nani played the ball, and on the follow through caught Artur with his studs. I’d be okay with a foul there. Maybe even a yellow card, but to give the play a red is unconscionable. There was no intent, no excessive force, and as such there should be no red card given.
Touchan changed the trajectory of the match with that call, and almost changed the result. While the Lions were still mentally dealing with the call, the Crew took advantage and got the equalizer. Down a man, it would normally be the case that a club would have to fall back, defend, and hope to counter. That is indeed what Orlando City did, but despite being down a man, the Lions still were able to occasionally hold possession, though not to the extent they did in the first half.
The Lions’ frustration resulted in a couple of additional yellow cards, including one on Mauricio Pereyra in the 64th minute. Because of that, Orlando City will be without Pereyra for Sunday’s match against Nashville. Going into that match without both Nani and Pereyra is a difficult task. Of course, given how nonsensical the red card was, there is a chance the MLS Disciplinary Committee will do the right thing and rescind the card. If MLS does not do so, it could be seen as doubling down on a bad decision simply because it will hurt Orlando City.
I started writing this piece just after the red card was issued, and I certainly expected to end it saying something about how the Lions were robbed by PRO referees, and that the match against Nashville is all the more important. But then, this team — this lovely, surprising team — took my frustration and blew it away with a Benji Michel goal in the 84th minute. It was the most deserved goal in 2020, and it secured a home playoff match for the Lions.
That isn’t to say the match against Nashville is no longer important. The results of that match will help determine Orlando City’s opponent in the first match of the playoffs. The only thing I don’t know as of writing this is whether MLS will do the right thing and rescind the red card.
Orlando City was almost punished by an incompetently given red card through the remainder of the Columbus match. There’s no reason to continue that punishment in Sunday’s match.