Nani was sent off after Video Review in the 52nd minute of the Week 23 match against the Columbus Crew with Orlando up 1-0. The 10-man Lions would go on to win 2-1. Red cards result in an automatic one-game suspension and Nani is scheduled to miss the season finale against Nashville (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET).
MLS clubs have the opportunity to appeal red card suspensions and the appeal is handled by a three-member Independent Review Panel.
Referee Ramy Touchan originally showed a yellow card to Nani and changed his decision after Video Review, later explaining that he issued the straight red for "Serious Foul Play for a straight leg tackle, contact with studs above the ankle." Touchan told a pool reporter that he gave the yellow card at first because he "originally thought the contact was low on the foot and reckless."
The sending-off left Nani in tears as he came off the field:
Pareja didn't mince words on the red card postgame, stating that "nothing happened" on the play and that "it was not a red card."
"I want to be bold on this because I already reviewed the play," he said postgame. "I think that we all make mistakes and in life we become emotional and it’s not an easy job for referees you know, it’s a game. We reviewed, nothing happened. Now, we all make mistakes and we assume that this is a part of the game. What happens is that the game gives us the possibility to be fair and we have to be fair. It was not a red card. It shouldn't have been a red card to Nani. I want to have a strong criteria because the play was reviewed, we respect because we all make mistakes but we had the opportunity to watch it. If you ask me, it was not a red card, it was not a red card.”
Several experts have since weighed in on the play:
Columnist Steve Zakuani: "I’ve watched this a few times and I am still trying to figure out why Nani was sent off. It’s even more puzzling when I consider that he was sent off after VAR was consulted. I’m not sure how you can watch that and conclude that he needed to walk. It was a strong challenge, but to me it wasn’t even worthy of a yellow. At worst, it was just a foul."
Extratime host Andrew Wiebe: “I think it is [a red card]. It doesn’t look terrible, but it’s a straight leg above the ankle, late and from the side."
David Gass, Extratime co-host: "There’s no force to it."
Charlie Davies: "I think it’s a hard yellow, orange card … I don’t think it’s a red. The foot was so low. If you look at the moment in the game, it’s not like he was an aggressor or he was mad. He’s not a dirty player. This was in the run of play … Reckless tackle."
Nani has been a big reason Orlando City have qualified for the postseason for the first time in club history. The Lions captain has five goals and five assists in 18 total matches as Orlando sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining.
The red card was the first that the former Portuguese international has received in two MLS seasons. Sebastian Jhegson Mendez received the only other red card shown to an Orlando player this year on Sept. 27.