One hell of a mental breakdown. That is precisely what happened over the course of three minutes in Orlando City SC's 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew this past Saturday.
While Orlando had been outplayed up to the 32nd minute of the match, the Crew's subsequent first goal, and what immediately followed it, are directly responsible for Columbus' blow-out victory. It is also the reason why TFC's next match just got a little bit easier.
Let's watch what happened- here's part 1:
Higuain's nifty little finish aside, the goal was a result of a terrible clearance from Orlando City defender Rafael Ramos (#27). As disappointing as the moment may have been for Orlando, the goal was all the more devastating for the 20 year old Portuguese defender, who undoubtedly realized he was largely to blame for sending the ball into a perfect area for Columbus' Ethan Finlay to collect. Sure, he was being pressured by none other than Federico Higuain, and didn't have many choices around him to distribute the ball safely, but ultimately Ramos' short-sighted decision led to OCSC keeper Donovan Ricketts fishing the ball out of the back of the net for the first time that evening.
What happened next is astounding. A large part of being a professional footballer is learning to deal with huge amounts of pressure, and overcoming disappointing moments in play. Rafael Ramos is but 20 years old, and still apparently learning these traits. Here, just two minutes later, is how he attempted to overcome his poor play and really help his team out in a positive way:
Entertaining, wasn't it. It doesn't take a sports psychologist to diagnose what happened to Ramos out on the pitch. When a footballer mucks up a play, they often try to over-compensate to recover and redeem themselves. Let's recall Luke Moore losing the ball in a certain match against RSL, and how he raced back and tackled... right through the back of the defender, a careless and over-aggressive move that cost him a yellow card (and later a one game sit-down).
Ramos, the newly capped U20 Portuguese international, was playing with similar aggression after his error, charging up the wing with the ball and trying to out-manoeuvre defenders before losing possession and angrily motioning over at the linesman. The rage-y combination of being disappointed in his giveaway a minute prior, along with his misplaced anger at the linesman for not calling what appeared to be a very weak foul (or possibly a non-offence), culminated in his all-out attack on Columbus' Waylon Francis. Studs raised slightly, the tackle not even close to the ball, Ramos sent a message to the referees, and everyone in attendance: I'm angry, and I'm going to show it, my team be damned.
The referee's reaction was also intriguing. At first he reaches for his yellow, an understandable reaction given that he wasn't right beside the tackle as it occurred. But then two things happen- 1) he appears to quickly consult his assistant from a distance, and 2) Ramos practically runs away from the card, making the referee's decision to hand out a red all the easier. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Ramos deserved the ejection- in fact, some Orlando fans likely thought he deserved it after the first Crew goal. His selfish play, borne out of frustration, was the work of an inexperienced player still struggling to keep his emotions in check. With the young defender out for at least one more match, Toronto FC's job just got a little bit easier, as Orlando is now faced with the difficult task of reaching into their shallow pool of reserves to replace their starting right back.
On a parting note- if Ramos' tackle was a red card, and the tackle below by RSL's Sebastian Saucedo was similarly a studs-up ejection,
How about this one below from Seattle's Chad Marshall? How did he get away with just a yellow? Referee's error?? Feel free to add your take on it below.