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Orlando City coach James O’Connor: ‘I’m sick of explanations’ from officials

Orlando City SC head coach James O'Connor reacts to the referees against the D.C. United during the second half at Orlando City Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

ORLANDO — Orlando City coach James O’Connor didn’t pull his punches when discussing a no-call on Wayne Rooney’s free kick goal in the first half of Orlando City’s 2-1 loss to D.C. United on Sunday. 

Rooney curled in a free kick in the 30th minute of the match, giving the Black-and-Red a 2-0 advantage in the first half. Centerback Frédéric Brillant collided with Orlando City goalkeeper Brian Rowe during the play, and Orlando City’s player pleaded with referee Armando Villarreal to go to the video review monitor. Villarreal didn’t check the play. 

A livid O’Connor addressed reporters after the match and brought up past instances where controversial calls didn’t go in Orlando City’s favor. 

“The foul on Brian Rowe was so obvious,” he said. “It goes to VAR, everybody can see it. For some reason we don’t… what’s the point in having VAR? He didn’t even go and look at it. Yet, everyone can see that it’s a foul. For us, we’ve had it, since I’ve been here, we’ve had it in game after game.

“Columbus away last year. D.C had an incident. New York at the start of this year. How many more times? The players go out and give an incredible second-half performance. Absolutely incredible, and yet, we come off and we lose the game, again, through no fault of our own. How many more times?”

Raising his voice, he added, “For me, when I look at it, it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got VAR, but why bother?’ They don’t even look. And you look at it, the whole stadium can see. It’s like, it’s mind-boggling stuff.”

The Video Assistant Referee reviews all plays and, according to MLS, “alerts the head referee to potential clear and obvious errors in four match-changing incidents: (1) goals, (2) penalty kicks, (3) direct red cards and (4) cases of mistaken identity.” The referee on the pitch decides whether to consider information relayed by the VAR. 

This isn’t the first time an Orlando City head coach has questioned the officiating after a loss. O’Connor’s predecessor, Jason Kreis, also had issues with officiating during his time coaching Orlando City. After a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Kreis said Orlando City gets “zero respect from referees.” 

“Listen, I’m sure I’ll get an explanation,” O’Connor said. “I’m sure on Monday we’ll get… but I’m sick of explanations. How many more explanations am I going to get? For the players, it’s not right for the players. They’ve gone, they’ve given absolutely everything. And yet, you look at the decision and it’s like we don’t even check to see. Then we see the replay and you’re like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” 

Star striker Dom Dwyer said “it’s a shame that the referees keep making a difference.” 

“I thought maybe having VAR would help the referees, but it seems to be doing the opposite,” he said. “They’re killing us at the moment.”

He added, “The league’s got to do something. It’s continuously happening. I don’t really know the solution.”

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