ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Pride were just minutes away from scratching a point after being down to 10 players for almost 30 minutes.
And then the wheels came off.
Kristen Edmonds gave away a penalty in the 83rd minute, which was argued by multiple Orlando players. Referee Reyna Fonseca went to discuss the penalty with one of her assistant referees.
While Fonseca was talking with her assistant, a scuffle ensued near the Orlando penalty box involving Marta and a Houston Dash player.
Marta, who was already on a yellow, was given a straight red card and was sent off for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Houston’s Rachel Daly converted the penalty that Edmonds gave away as the Dash defeated the Pride 1-0 on Saturday at Exploria Stadium in a wild contest.
Orlando defender Ali Krieger did not hold back following the game on the performance of the referees.
“Obviously, the ref lost control of the game,” Krieger said. “And I think they have to be better, all four of them. I don’t want to place blame on that and that’s why we lost because yeah, we control ourselves, but she obviously can get better control.”
Krieger’s comments came after a frustrating night during which two decisions went against her team.
Orlando (3-10-2, 11 points) went down to 10 players when Julie King, who was signed on Thursday, was shown a straight red card in the 61st minute. King tackled Houston’s Kristie Mewis, who was in on goal.
Fonseca determined King’s tackle was a denial of a goal-scoring opportunity and sent her off.
Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner said he thought it was the correct decision for King to be shown a red card.
Skinner said he was not given an explanation as to why Marta was sent off, but he added if Marta did make contact with a Houston player, he would understand the decision.
“Do you know what I would like? Consistency,” Skinner said. “If there’s consistency, you would have [fewer] arguments. If you have a bad night and you’re bad for both teams, you kind of both moan but get on with it.”
Fonseca gave the NWSL pool reporter an explanation for Marta’s red card.
“Marta Vieira da Silva #10 pushed Houston player #19 Mews in the neck using excessive force, causing Mewis to fall to the ground,” Fonseca said to the pool reporter following the game. “Martha Viera da Silva (sic) was sent off for violent conduct at the 85th minute.”
Edmonds’ foul, Marta’s red card and Daly’s penalty ended the Pride’s hope of securing a point in their first game in 20 days.
The loss also snaps the team’s two-game home win streak.
Chioma Ubogagu had the best chance of the game from open play in the 43rd minute. Ubogagu was in on goal after the ball found her feet in the penalty box. She took one dribble and decided to go with a curling effort with her left foot toward the far post.
It went wide, and Ubogagu put her hands on her head in disbelief.
Her miss was the beginning of the frustration which reached its peak in the last 10 minutes of the contest.
“We’re putting a good product out on the field and every year we’re getting better and the referees seem like they are not,” Krieger said. “So, I beg the NWSL — just the standard needs to be higher. It’s just unfortunate that you feel like the referee is ruining the game.”