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Nani’s Red Card Rescinded; Captain Eligible to Play vs. Nashville

Sanity prevails after further review.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City’s appeal of Nani’s red card Wednesday against the Columbus Crew has been successful and the captain is eligible for selection on Sunday in the club’s regular-season finale against Nashville SC after the card was rescinded.

The red card always seemed suspect to anyone who wasn’t simply looking at a still photograph of the instant of contact and, in this case, the Independent Review Panel has made what would seem to be the rational decision in removing the card from Nani’s record.

The Independent Review Panel, consisting of one representative from the U.S. Soccer Federation, one representative from the Canadian Soccer Association and one independent representative nominated by the Professional Referee Organization, has unanimously rescinded the one-game suspension and accompanying fine for the red card issued to Orlando City SC’s Nani in the 52nd minute of Orlando’s match against the Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Here is the play in question, in which the Portuguese star was trying to quickly recover the ball off a heavy touch forced by Harrison Afful.

Nani got the ball before Artur arrived, running straight into the contact — the inverse of an earlier play in the match when Nani did the same while trying to close down Artur on the sideline, running into the Crew midfielder’s boot on the follow-through in what was a much meatier collision.

Referee Ramy Touchan did not give even a foul for the earlier contact of Artur’s boot on Nani’s leg and the Crew stayed on the attack while Nani remained down on the sideline behind the play for a good while. But later in the match, Touchan initially gave Nani a yellow for the contact on Artur. He then went to review the play after consulting with video assistant referee José Carlos Rivero. Upon looking at his initial call, Touchan decided he made a clear and obvious error and changed his decision to straight red. Incredulous, Nani delayed his exit from the pitch, which earned him an undisclosed fine from the league yesterday, then left with tears in his eyes.

The Crew equalized four minutes later.

After the match, Touchan was asked by the Orlando City pool reporter what he saw on the replay and why he made the decision to change from a yellow to a red.

“Red card was for Serious Foul Play for a straight leg tackle, contact with studs above the ankle,” he said in his written response. “Originally thought that the contact was low on the foot and reckless.”

The Independent Review Panel obviously disagreed — unanimously — with Touchan’s decision.

Interestingly, Touchan was also the referee when Orlando City drew 0-0 at FC Dallas on Sept. 27 — the only other Lions game this year that he has officiated. Why is that significant? Orlando City’s only other sending off all season came in that game, when Sebas Mendez picked up two yellow cards in five minutes. That would be quite a coincidence if Mendez wasn’t fully deserving of both yellows — the first of which was a stupid and easily avoidable one for time wasting as he kicked the ball away to slow down a restart.

The good news is that Orlando City overcame Touchan’s mistake Wednesday when Benji Michel scored a late winner in a game that the Lions rightfully deserved to win with their play on the pitch. The better news is that City’s captain will now be able to play against Nashville, which became more important when Mauricio Pereyra picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, just as Oscar Pareja was preparing a substitute for him.

Since the appeal was successful, Orlando City still has two appeals available in the 2020 season.