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Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson fined for criticizing MLS officiating on social media

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson was fined for social media comments regarding officiating during his team's 3-2 loss at Orlando City on April 8. (Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports)

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson was fined for comments he made on social media regarding officiating during his team’s 3-2 road loss April 8 against Orlando City.

“Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced today that Portland Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson has been fined an undisclosed amount for his comments on April 8 on social media that were subsequently published,” read a statement released Monday by MLS.

Paulson, who is active on social media and not shy about sharing his opinions, criticized referee Baldomero Toledo’s penalty call that resulted in Orlando City tying the match in the 82nd minute. Dom Dwyer drew the penalty after going down in the box following contact with Portland’s Alvas Powell. Sacha Kljestan converted for the goal. Orlando City went on to win the match off a Dwyer goal five minutes later. 

Paulson called the penalty “disgraceful” and a “joke.” His reaction was published in Pro Soccer USA’s game recap. In additional tweets since deleted, he also accused Dwyer of flopping and said the Timbers giving up a third goal was unacceptable but “we lost to a team [with] 12 guys today.”

He was not the only person to question the call. ESPN’s broadcast crew called the contact Dwyer took in the box incidental and also wondered by why there was no video review.

Many fans and analysts on social media did as well, and Timbers defender Zarek Valentin called the penalty “soft.”

“I mean, in my book it’s not a penalty,” Valentin told Pro Soccer USA after the match. “Obviously the referee makes the penalty call, but I think it’s soft.”

Paulson took to social media to comment on the fine shortly after it was announced by MLS. He began a Tweet jokingly with, “Maybe I should toss my phone before games and buy a new one after…it would be cheaper!” 

He then went on to praise PRO and MLS’ position at the forefront of the Video Assistant Referee initiative and implementation worldwide.

Pro Soccer USA staff writer Jordan Culver contributed to this report.

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