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Referees group admits error in awarding Columbus Crew penalty

The Professional Referee Organization that oversees MLS games admitted to an error in giving the penalty that allowed Columbus Crew SC to rally for a 3-2 win on Saturday.

Orlando City's players and CEO had hit out at what they thought was an "absurd" decision when referee Silviu Petrescu awarded a penalty after forward Patrick Mullins fell to ground under minimal pressure from right-back RJ Allen.

And in a statement on Tuesday, PRO said that "the minimal amount of contact between the players did not justify this decision."

Petrescu opted not to review the play on video, and the refs' group faulted video assistant referee Jon Freemon for failing to properly inform the match official of a clear and obvious error. 

"The VAR checked this penalty kick decision, but did not accurately identify the on-field call as a clear and obvious error based on the minimal contact between the two players," the statement said. "Therefore, the VAR did not appropriately recommend a video review.

"PRO holds its officials accountable and takes appropriate action when necessary. In addition, PRO evaluates the performances of every match official, and is taking steps to continually minimize these types of errors through rigorous training and testing protocols."

Orlando had been leading 2-1 at the time of the incident, but Gyasi Zardes converted the penalty to equalise in the 88th minute before Wil Trapp's stunning strike from distance put Columbus ahead in stoppage time.

Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao wrote on Twitter on Sunday the decision was inexcusable.

"This is an absurd," Leitao wrote. "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."

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