US Open Cup: Colorado Rapids cite ref's controversial call after upset loss to Orlando City

It was the decisive play in the Rapids’ 3-1 loss to third-division Orlando City SC in third-round US Open Cup action on Tuesday night.

With Colorado trailing 2-1 in the 57th minute, Rapids ‘keeper Steward Ceus came off his line in an attempt to stop Orlando striker Dominic Dwyer, but Ceus stopped Dwyer with a tackle that resulted in a red card.

But if you ask the Rapids there wasn’t much of a tackle at all, although the decision undoubtedly tipped the momentum and the match in Orlando’s favor.

“I think Stew maybe got a little contact with the forward there, but nothing too much,” said defender Shane O’Neill, who made a goal-saving clearance on the same play. “I tried to clear the ball off the line obviously, but as play went on, [the referee] stopped it on a throw-in or something, and he called it back. I think the sideline official called him over, obviously that’s the ref’s decision, and we have to live with it, but I thought it was a tough call for us.”

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With Ceus forced off, the Rapids were forced to substitute out forward Kevin Harbottle and they conceded yet again to lose in stunningly comfortable fashion on Tuesday.

Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said he needed to see the play again, but he ripped the referees’ overall performance on Tuesday night after the game.

“I look to just fix our own problems,” Pareja said. “But it was a sad day for the guys in yellow.”

While the Rapids were uniform in praising Orlando for a solid performance on Tuesday night, they were also united in singling out the referees for making what they determined to be an incorrect, game-changing call.

“I think the changing moment in the game was when the ref decided to give a red card to our 'keeper,” said Rapids midfielder Kamani Hill, who scored his team’s lone goal in the 18th minute. “I thought it was kind of a shock to everybody and definitely killed the game for us.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.