A furious Oscar Pareja has branded Sunday as a “boring day” for MLS after Orlando City’s late winner against Nashville was ruled out after a VAR review.
After taking a 1-0 lead through Daryl Dike in the 18th minute, the Lions fought back shortly after the break as MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar scored his 15th goal of the season.
Orlando thought they had sealed what would have been a decisive victory in their MLS Cup play-off chase when Andreas Perea bundled home the return from a powerful free-kick from Alexandre Pato that tossed the crossbar.
The celebration broke out, but referee Allen Chapman was called over to the video screen and finally ruled out the goal for what appeared to be a foul by Daryl Dike on Nashville’s defender Alistair Johnston just as Perea put the ball in the net. One can safely say that those who belong to Orlando did not agree with the conversation.
“It’s a very sad day for the league,” Pareja said at his post-match press conference.
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“There’s no explanation for a play we saw obviously. And it ruined the joy of our people … Allow me not to say more. I have to talk about the game, which is obviously what brought us here. But that’s incredible. what happened tonight. “
Nashville head coach Gary Smith had a completely different assessment of the decision.
“We can huff and puff and blow and say what we want but the ultimate goal was a foul,” he said. “… I do not care what anyone wants to say.
“[Dike] does not play the ball, he plays Alistair. Alistair tries to clear it, he does not clear it well enough due to the contact. It’s a foul, no matter how you look at it. “
According to the PRO (Professional Referee Organization, via Julia Poe), Dike was judged to have “kicked” Johnston’s legs before the ball was cleared, with enough force to prevent the defender from doing so.
FULL TIME | 1-1
LAST MINUTE GOALS NOT ALLOWED ❌? | Here is the summerbeater goal that @ andresperea06 hit past Joe Willis after @Pato hit the crossbar.
Would have secured a playoff spot but if the referee ruled it out for a foul after consulting WHERE. # ORLvNSH #OrlandoCity pic.twitter.com/FPMEarz7bJ
– Orlando City UK (@Orlando_CityUK) October 31, 2021
Orlando has only one game left when they travel to CF Montreal on Decision Day on Sunday. The Canadian side has a game in hand against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday and should they win, there is a chance that the results could knock Orlando out of the playoffs at the last hurdle. Avoid defeats on Sunday, and a place in the post-season is theirs regardless.
But Pareja admits it will be tough to pick up his players from such a dramatic, emotional setback, with the disappointment evident throughout Orlando’s locker room.
“There is no explanation that comes close to accepting the decision. There is no way to do it. We have already shown the play 30 times. We have only put it behind us, it will obviously take some time, one day. I hope the boys and I can just shake it off and then refocus because it’s our responsibility, and have the courage, the intensity, the intention, the desire that will get us over this obstacle. That’s what we need to do.
“But I can tell you how disappointed the players are with what just happened, so we’ll just wait and let them observe it first and tomorrow will be another day. We’re football players, this is a beautiful sport and we just have to go and try make things happen in Montreal. “