ORLANDO, Fla. – It can be hard for players to swallow having to start a game on the bench. But sometimes, like in the case of Stefano Pinho making his MLS debut on Saturday for Orlando City, the coach's decision was justified.
Pinho, who entered in the 58th minute for Chris Mueller, scored Orlando’s game-tying goal in the 93rd minute in a 1-1 draw against D.C. United at Orlando City Stadium, after the Lions played with 10 men for almost 50 minutes.
Following the match, Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis opined on the key role the debutant played for the team.
“It’s never about the players that start the game. It’s often times, it’s the players that come off the bench that can really make the difference,” Kreis said. “I think [Pinho] along with the other substitutes that came in had extremely positive impacts on the game, and I couldn’t be more pleased for Stefano because I think he’s a fantastic addition.
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“He was probably disappointed not to be able to start tonight, but his contribution off the bench was critical for us. His work rate was fantastic, his running was fantastic and his finish was top notch,” Kreis added.
Before Pinho’s equalizer in stoppage time ever happened, much of the game was surrounded with controversy after two Video Review calls went against Orlando in the first half.
According to head referee Fotis Bazakos, asked about the play after the game, the play was a handball.
Kreis thought otherwise.
“Initially I thought there would be no way the decision would go against us because from my point of view, it looked like arms were down and any time there’s a ball played back quickly from somebody’s foot to somebody’s arm in the penalty box in what really looks like a pretty non-decisive situation, you really ask yourself the question if it doesn’t hit his hand, where does it go?” said Kreis.
Once again, Bazakos formally reviewed the play and returned to issue PC a straight red card for violent conduct for an arm to Asad’s face. But once more, Kreis did not agree with the decision.
“Really odd situation where I think my player is fouled first, honestly,” said Kreis. “I think he was pushed from the back going on an aerial challenge. Once he gets pushed from the back, he’s just fighting to try to get his balance back and sure an arm is flailing and hit the opponent's head.”
“Interesting decision because the referee deliberates over it for a while, shows a yellow card and then got to deliberate some more to look at video review,” added Kreis “Something about that process seemed a little off for me, but I’m no expert, so we’ll deal with the decisions as they come.”