One of the most bizarre sequences in Orlando City’s eight seasons in Major League Soccer took place late in the Lions’ 2-1 Decision Day win over the Columbus Crew. The officiating crew for the match seemed to struggle with a triple substitution by Orlando City in the 89th minute. It led to an unnecessary booking to starting winger Ivan Angulo, the Lions having to defend a Crew set piece with just 10 men, and a lot of confusion on the part of everyone watching.
The Lions had taken a late lead in the 84th minute on a successful Facundo Torres penalty kick and were looking to see out the final few minutes of normal time, plus what promised to be a great deal of stoppage time after a second half that featured a couple of goals, a video review, a hydration break, and several substitutions. Head Coach Oscar Pareja sent Tesho Akindele, Wilder Cartagena, and Andres Perea into the game and planned to withdraw Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Torres. What seemed like a simple matter became a strange and bewildering scene.
Here’s what took place:
Angulo and Pereyra both picked up knocks at the time of the substitution and needed attention from the training staff. Pereyra merely got what looked like a cramp stretched out while Angulo also received treatment. The player numbers went up on the board on the touch line and Orlando’s substitutes waited for the starters to come off the field. Columbus also made a substitution during the stoppage — replacing defender Jonathan Mensah with forward Erik Hurtado — so there was a lot to keep track of in the area between the benches.
That’s not an excuse for what happened next.
On the broadcast, you can hear the fourth official giving Cartagena, Akindele, and Perea instructions that they can go on when the other players came off. Torres was the first to reach the sideline, and Perea went on for him. Pereyra then walked off and Akindele ran onto the pitch. Finally, Angulo was the last to reach the touch line.
The broadcast’s field microphone (which I couldn’t hear in the press box, obviously) picked up fourth official Eric Tattersall telling Angulo where he should wait to go back on the pitch after his injury, but Tattersall apparently didn’t know that Angulo had been subbed off. Orlando had only 10 men when Columbus restarted play.
Seeing his team playing a man down, Angulo ran back onto the field and referee Alex Chilowicz, who had his back to the sideline and couldn’t see Angulo, must have been radioed about the Orlando winger returning to the pitch. Chilowicz whistled to stop play and booked Angulo, sending him back to the touch line. Orlando’s bench was incensed at the confusion and Cartagena continued to wait without permission to go on. Tattersall could be heard trying to send assistants back to the technical area at this point. Both Angulo and Cartagena were standing nearby, still lost in confusion.
The game restarted with a free kick in a dangerous area near the right corner of the box and Orlando City having only 10 men on the pitch. Cartagena was finally allowed on the field during play while Pedro Gallese was catching a cross from Aidan Morris.
After the match, questions were sent from the press box via pool reporter Mike Gramajo to the officials’ dressing room, asking for clarification on what happened during those late subs.
Because we aren’t allowed to speak directly to the referee after the game, the pool reporter is the MLS mechanism by which the media can receive feedback from match officials on why calls were or were not made. One “pool reporter” is selected to be the point of contact for all of the assembled media, and questions are usually formulated via group effort. And it takes some critical thinking to present a question in a way that will hopefully provide a helpful response, because, to be frank, we sometimes get some pretty smartass answers — or non-answers — and rarely get any useful explanation. In terms of Sunday’s fiasco on the field, the questions were put forth at Austin David’s urging.
The truth is that despite the Professional Referee Organization’s (PRO’s) assertion under former leader Howard Webb that PRO wanted to be more helpful and transparent with the media, very little useful information is ever gleaned from answers to the pool reporter’s questions, and often the answers seem to be the bare minimum that is required, with little thought given to the job we’re trying to do of telling readers what happened.
On Sunday, it inexplicably took three and a half hours to get a response to the questions Gramajo sent as the game was concluding. This was the (eventual) response, which Mike emailed to me when it finally arrived:
1. WHAT WAS THE REASON WILDER CARTAGENA WAS NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER THE GAME FOR IVAN ANGULO IN THE 90TH MINUTE?
Multiple Orlando City substitutions were taking place at the same time. When Orlando City presented their substitution cards to the 4th official, Angulo was not being replaced by Cartagena, but rather by Akindele. However, Akindele ran onto the field early, prior to Angulo coming off. Akindele entered when Pereyra came off the field, who was actually being replaced by Cartagena.
2. AFTER ANGULO CAME OUT, WHY WAS ORLANDO FORCED TO PLAY WITH 10 PLAYERS?
When Angulo finally came off the field, due to the confusion caused by Akindele entering the field early, the officials held Cartagena off the field while they established exactly who was replacing who. This meant that Orlando City were temporarily down to ten players. This was an error by the match officials, who should have allowed Cartagena onto the field of play prior to the game re-starting, as both players who were being substituted had left the field of play by that time.
First off, it’s stupid that it took 3.5 hours to get a response to these two questions. Second, the answers are, as usual, wholly unsatisfying.
The response to the first question indicates that Akindele presumably ran onto the field to replace the wrong player. This was permitted by the fourth official and if it was in error, he should have been sent back to the touch line to replace Angulo when Angulo came off. If he did not have the fourth official’s permission to enter, he should have been booked. There was no indication live, or from anything the broadcast picked up, that Akindele was in the wrong or that he didn’t have permission to go on. So, if he was to replace Angulo and not Pereyra, that’s on the match officials.
The response to the second question actually blames Akindele — not the officials, whose very job it is to adjudicate the match — for causing the confusion during that period. Better handling of the substitutions was necessary in that instance, and it’s harsh to blame it on the Orlando player, who only knows he’s been told he is to go on when his teammate comes off.
The response by the referee to the second question also admits that the crew was at fault for not letting Cartagena onto the field before the restart. That admission would have been of no comfort whatsoever to Orlando City players, coaches, staff, or fans if the Crew had scored on the free kick, knocking the Lions out of the playoffs. (And it’s helpful here to remember that an erroneously awarded corner kick allowed Austin to draw Orlando, and an admittedly [by PRO itself] wrong overturning of an Ercan Kara goal in Chicago, helped put the Lions in that precarious postseason position to begin with).
And let’s talk about that free kick. The Crew took the initial restart from further up the field. But after Angulo ran back on to keep his team from being down a man, and Chilowicz booked him and sent him back to the sideline, an indirect free kick was awarded in a much more dangerous position for the visitors. Columbus had a numbers advantage on an extremely dangerous set piece in a one-goal game with a playoff spot on the line!
I will grant that tracking a large number of simultaneous substitutions seems like it might have its difficulties, but this wasn’t opening day. It was Match Day 34. If PRO officials can’t figure out how to give one team a single sub and the other team a triple substitution correctly in the same window after 33 prior weeks of games, it’s simply unacceptable.
The organization needs to do a thorough audit of its member referees to ensure they know the rules and procedures of the substitution process — and how to properly enforce those rules and procedures — to prevent this from ever happening again. This idiocy could have cost a team a postseason berth.
Match officials are humans (allegedly) and therefore not immune to mistakes, but this one seemed particularly egregious on a procedure that should be routine.
Get it together, PRO.
Reflecting on Eight Years with The Mane Land
A look back over my time with The Mane Land (so far).
As of last week, I have been a contributor at The Mane Land for eight years. That’s longer than I’ve ever been at any of my actual jobs in my life. There are literally only a couple of people who have been with the site longer, but I’m still amazed at how long it’s been. This is not to say I’m going anywhere, but rather I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at the past eight years, and look ahead to the future.
Unlike some, I didn’t come to be a supporter of Orlando City until it was announced that the club was joining MLS. At the time, I was contemplating picking a club to follow in MLS, but being in Tallahassee, there were no nearby options at that time. I considered FC Dallas and D.C. United, given the two were geographically closer in proximity to me than any others. Fortunately, it was literally while I was considering my options that the announcement was made regarding Orlando City’s jump to MLS. It was an easy decision.
As I do in many aspects of my life, I immediately started researching my new club, which led me to the content being produced by The Mane Land. There was also an article on the site titled “Join The Mane Land Staff.” I had often over the years internally bemoaned that I rarely used my Bachelor’s degree in English, and the desire to write welled up in me so much that I emailed the staff.
In response, one of our former editors, Andrew Marcinko, contacted me and said “I think your voice would be a great fit on TML.” He asked me to submit a Fan Post (those went away with our presence on SBN), and then another piece for review. Following that, our founder and managing editor, Michael Citro, emailed me to welcome me to the staff. I had no idea at the time how big a part of my life this blog would become.
I started out writing Monday’s Lions Links — often one of the more difficult days to write — and a feature piece. It’s been many years gone by now, but there was a time when the feature piece was “Pride Pub,” an ongoing series that paired craft beer and good food based on Orlando City’s opponent. I can tell you that the research for that was very enjoyable, and I still use some of the recipes I found to this day.
Eventually, I started contributing more match coverage and analytical pieces. Staff came and went, but I never thought to leave since I was enjoying myself. Sometime after that, I was promoted to senior columnist, for which I’m grateful. I can without reservation say that I’m a better writer thanks to my time with the site, and from working with such excellent staff.
In November of 2016, Michael asked if I wanted to give co-hosting The Mane Land PawedCast a try. My first recording was for Episode 71. We just recorded Episode 354, and with the exception of maybe two or three episodes, I have been on every single one of 283 episodes over the last six plus years. Michael and I have spent a lot of time talking on and off the podcast over the years, and I’m proud of what we have produced and to call him my friend.
We recently added an Orlando Pride-specific podcast called Skopurp: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. For years we wanted to give the Pride the time and attention the club deserves. Now, it is a reality, but one that I ask you to listen to and share. I’ll even put out that although Michael and I are the current hosts, we merely consider ourselves stewards and are hoping to get others to come onboard and eventually take it to the next level.
When I started with The Mane Land, the site had just made the move from a free WordPress site to the SBNation network. It was a big deal, and for many years it was a good partnership. Of course that all came to an end not too long ago, and our blog went the independent route thanks to the incredibly generous support of our readers and listeners. In fact, if you want to be one of those supporting our efforts, please go to our Buy Me A Coffee site to become a member. The move has allowed a flexibility we didn’t have before, but I really want others to have the same sense of joy and accomplishment that I have as a member of our staff.
At one point we had nearly twice the staff that we do now, and as you know, many hands make light work. The opposite of that is also true. I genuinely believe that there must be others out there with the same passion for Orlando City as I have — with the same desire to have their voice heard, whether through the written word or on a podcast. I promise you there is an opportunity to contribute here with us. Our internal discussions are informative, engaging, and often funny. Please consider joining us, as I did eight years ago. I haven’t regretted it and I know you won’t either.
I want to thank all of those who contributed to The Mane Land over the years. There are many that I am still in touch with, though they are no longer a part of the staff. Of course, the current staff are a pleasure to work with, and I appreciate their dedication to what we are trying to do.
Finally, I want to thank the readers and listeners over the years. From those who regularly comment on our articles, to those that I’ve personally met at matches or even randomly on the street, you are a big reason that we do all of this. You are a big reason why I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. it is always a genuine pleasure hearing your thoughts or simply sharing a moment of joy together — U.S. Open Cup final, anyone?
So, thank you. I look forward to many more years of this journey together.
The Mane Land Announces Membership Program
Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.
Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.
You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.
The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.
The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)
Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)
We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).
For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.
The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.
Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.
TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.
Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.
The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.
Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration
While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.
We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.
Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.
The Most Important Part of This Post
Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.
The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.
No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.
Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.
I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.
Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.
Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.
We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)
I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.
Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.
Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.
We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.
Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.
For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.
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