Orlando Coach Slams Ref and Messi, Says It’s A ‘Circus’
Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja voiced his frustration and disappointment after his team's 3-1 defeat to Inter Miami, led by Lionel Messi, in the Leagues Cup clash on Wednesday night. Pareja branded the match a "circus” due to several contentious decisions made by Salvadorian referee Ivan Barton, which he believed favored Miami and affected the outcome of the game.
One of the most contentious incidents occurred in the 21st minute when Messi was shown a yellow card for a foul. Pareja argued that the Argentine should have been sent off with a second yellow card for another challenge later in the game. The coach emphasized that the rules should be consistently applied to all players, regardless of their star status.
“Tonight was a circus. There was a second yellow on Messi [that wasn't given]. I don't care if he's Messi,” Pareja said.
"The match should be fair, and that was not the case on the field. We take our responsibility, OK, we lost, we are frustrated, but I have to say (this), you cannot hide this kind of situation," Pareja asserted in the post-match press conference.
The turning point in the game came when Miami was awarded a penalty after Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez went down in the box following a slight tug. Pareja was livid with this decision, believing it was soft and should have been reviewed by VAR (Video Assistant Referee). He expressed his disappointment that the referee did not utilize the technology to ensure the accuracy of the call.
"The penalty was unbelievable. Unbelievable. If the VAR was there and we have referees, then we have to be honest and go and see it because the game deserved it," Pareja argued passionately.
Despite the loss, Orlando City has shown tremendous potential this season, and Pareja urged for a level playing field in future matches, emphasizing that fairness and impartiality are crucial for the integrity of the sport.
In contrast, Inter Miami coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, a compatriot of Messi, defended his star player and expressed understanding for the physical attention Messi received from the Orlando defense.
"Just like when Barcelona play Real Madrid and River play Boca, these same things happen," Martino stated, highlighting that such intensity and competitiveness are common in derbies and high-stakes matches.
Regarding Pareja's comments, Martino declined to engage in a public debate but instead preferred to focus on his team's performance and their recent success with three consecutive victories since Messi joined the squad.
"I am not going to give my opinion on what Oscar Pareja said in his press conference. I respect his opinion, but we have to look forward having won our third game in a row, so that is our focus," Martino remarked diplomatically.
Inter Miami advances to the round-of-16 of the Leagues Cup and they will face FC Dallas in Texas on Sunday. With Messi maintaining his form and scoring many goals in as many games, the team is determined to sustain their winning streak and continue making strides in the tournament for MLS and Mexican Liga MX clubs.