What to Expect from Orlando City’s Next Match Official Hilario Grajeda Against NYRB



Sunday night’s nationally televised bout between Orlando City and New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena will be another opportunity for the Lions to showcase their talents to America on FS1. Orlando will be trying for its third victory of the 2016 season against an NYRB side that is currently dead last in MLS with just three points from seven contests.

Given the amount of officiating controversy that the Lions – and MLS as a whole – have dealt with in recent weeks, however, it seems like an unfortunate, but necessary exercise to have a look at this week's match referee, Hilario Grajeda, as he will more than likely have some kind of influence on the match if recent history is any indication.

The good news about Grajeda is that he has been previously acknowledged for being good at his job: In 2013, he was named MLS Referee of the Year. Not only was Hilario the Ref of the Year, he won the award in dominating fashion, garnering 52.17% of club votes, 47.83% of media votes and 40.44% of the player votes for a weighted total of 140.44, which smashed second-place finisher Ismail Elfath's weighted total of 80.51. Grajeda was second to none in '13, this much is apparent.

However, the match on Sunday will take place in 2016, and according to our friends from Massive Report, Grajeda may have let the dominant run of 2013 go to his head a bit and rest on his laurels, as MR ranked him in the middle of the MLS ref pack as recently as last summer. While Grajeda was an officiating machine in 2013, his performances since have proven that he is, indeed, human. He confirmed as much in an interview with U.S. Referee Connection.

"Sometimes I feel that the coaches, players, fans and media feel that we are some sort of dark, superhuman being that is not supposed to make any mistakes," Grajeda said.

You're damn right about that, Hilario. We're expecting perfection on Sunday.

However, despite his otherwordly officiating in 2013, his quote above tells us that we should probably expect some mistakes. Hopefully they're not like the kind that Baldomero Toledo made last week to hurt both teams in Orlando's 2-2 home draw to New England, but the way things are going in MLS in 2016, nothing can be ruled out.

As far as his disciplinary record this season, Grajeda has called a total of 63 fouls in three matches as a head official, an average of 21 per match, which puts him below the league average of 23.2 per game among PRO refs. Between his below average foul number and 2.33 yellow-card per game average (almost a full card below the league average of 3.23 per match), we may be able to expect Grajeda to officiate moderately and "let them play" a little bit.

However, this campaign has taught us — between retroactive red cards, missed handballs, made up handballs and more — that we really have no idea what we will get from Hilario Grajeda and his officiating crew against the Red Bulls. We hope Hilario and crew are at the top of their game, but we ultimately just hope that the soccer gods may be on our side this weekend, and that Cyle Larin may be aware of Sacha Kljestan's position on the field at all times.


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