Match analysis: Orlando City 0, Stoke City 1
ONLY in the Citrus Bowl, home of Orlando City, could a referee look such a lemon.
Marcos Deoliveira took the award for MVP – most valuable plonker – after doing his damnedest to reduce this goodwill friendly into a sorry farce.
Players on either side didn't always do themselves any favours, it's true, but just a modicum of intelligence would have prevented the referee being blinded by a spotlight of his own making.
Convention the world over dictates that short of a player planting explosives down an opponent's shorts, any offender is subbed by his own manager rather than sent off in friendlies.
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So why was Glenn Whelan sent packing on the hour for two quickfire yellow cards after he first clattered into striker Rodrigo Lopez, then immediately squared up to former Stoke midfielder James O'Connor?
O'Connor, himself, must have been sweating for a split second after he himself had been dismissed for joining a mass brawl in a league game just 24 hours earlier.
Neither of Whelan's offences looked worthy of yellow, even in a competitive fixture, but off he stomped across the Astroturf.
And where else but the home of Disney World would you witness the kind of Mickey Mouse refereeing that followed 10 minutes later when injuries forced Tony Pulis to chuck a couple of subbed players back on to the pitch?
Mr Deoliveira was having none of it at first and assistant boss Dave Kemp, despite being married to an American, couldn't make himself understood as Ryan Shotton stood ready to return to the pitch for the injured Cameron Jerome.
Only when the Stoke manager waded in with rather more rudimentary language did the referee eventually relent and suddenly, completely out of the blue, remember he was reffing a friendly and not the World Cup final.
At least such feisty flashpoints were proof that Stoke were paying Orlando, their sister club of course, the compliment of taking this fixture seriously enough for their hackles to be raised on more than one occasion.
Indeed, Lopez had already felt the full force of Premier League defending well before the Whelan incident when he flicked the ball round Robert Huth, only for an impulsive forehand in the face to ensure the Orlando striker would be making no further progress goalwards.
More conventional Premier League quality wasn't always quite so blatant – as it rarely is at this stage of pre-season – but the evening's only goal in first-half stoppage time did carry a familiar hallmark for the hundred or so Stoke shirts inside the 70,000-capacity Citrus Bowl.
A deep left-wing cross from Marc Wilson was headed back into the mix by Peter Crouch and Jon Walters, having earlier been denied by a well-timed tackle in front of goal, made no mistake this time by controlling with his chest before looping his volley across the keeper inside his far right-hand post.
A thoroughly neat finish for Walters to make it two in two after also netting in the 2-1 reverse in Columbus four days earlier.
Second-half chances were nowhere near so deadly amid all the various comings and goings, however, as Kenwyne Jones forced the only save of note with a powerful thump towards the near post.
Orlando were never shy to shoot, at any stage of a humid evening, but found an unwilling accomplice in Stoke's MVP – that is most valuable player – Thomas Sorensen.
A near-post parry just after the half-hour was the pick of his first-half work, while a close-range block was a worthy follow-up in the second.
His best was still to come, however, as he twice thwarted Orlando in the final five minutes when efforts were met with excellent reactions on the first occasion and safe handling on the second.
Orlando: Gallardo (Kelley, 46), Melchack (Ustruck, 46), Bernard (Allen, 66), Boden (Davis, 46), Valentino (Davies, 46), Mbengue, O'Connor, Molino (Watson, 46), Alexandre (Campbell, 46), Lopez (Rooney, 70), Chin (Luzurinis, 60).
Stoke: Sorensen, Shotton (Arismendi, 61), Wilson (Ness, 81), Shawcross, Huth (Higginbotham, 55), Ness (Whitehead, 49), Whelan, Palacios (Upson, 49), Etherington (Tonge, 49), Walters (Jerome, 55), (Shotton, 73), Crouch (Jones, 55).
Referee: Marcos Deoliveira