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Orlando City slams 'absurd' penalty decision in loss to Columbus Crew

Orlando City's players and CEO hit out at what they thought was an "absurd" penalty decision that allowed Columbus Crew SC to rally for a 3-2 win on Saturday.

Columbus was trailing 2-1 in the 87th minute when referee Silviu Petrescu awarded a penalty after forward Patrick Mullins fell to ground under minimal pressure from right-back RJ Allen.

Petrescu signalled twice that he was listening to the video assistant referee for a potential review, but ultimately did not consult the pitchside monitors and the decision stood. Gyasi Zardes equalised from the spot and Wil Trapp went on to win it for Columbus in stoppage time.

It wasn't clear if the VAR, Jon Freemon, told Petrescu that the play didn't constitute a clear and obvious error, or if he did and Petrescu chose not to pursue a review anyway.

The referees issued a statement after the game, saying: "As the Columbus player was about to head the ball in the Orlando penalty area, the Orlando player charged him from behind. Therefore a penalty kick was called."

That didn't placate Orlando striker Dom Dwyer, who slammed the decision and called the statement a "cop out" on Twitter.

"Wasn't going to say anything but after seeing the ref's cop out comments, the worst decision I've ever seen," Dywer wrote. "If the ref had any humility he would check VAR, if he did 'check' then it's even more of a joke!"

Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao said the decision was inexcusable.

"This is an absurd," Leitao wrote on Twitter. "I am sorry but there is no explanation for this one, nobody can be so incompetent. Hard to be in an insane pressure, work hard to recover to breath[e] again and see something like that happens. Very frustrating."

Sacha Kljestan also said he "thought it was the wrong call.

"I watched it live and I thought it was the wrong call, and I watched the replay about 50 times on my phone and I still think it was the wrong call. Why do we have VAR if we're not going to check things like that? I don't know. It's a very frustrating way to lose the game."

Orlando coach James O'Connor, perhaps wary of the recent fine and suspension MLS gave Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke, was more cautious when asked about the call in his postgame news conference.

"The fact that you're asking that as the first question says it all," O'Connor told Pro Soccer USA. "I'm not going to speak about the referee. Everyone else at home can see what's going on. It's just really, really disappointing for the players, because the players didn't deserve that tonight. They really didn't."

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