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October 25th, 2006 2:49PM
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Much ado has been made of the apparent handball by which Carlos Ruiz controlled a pass before scoring the first goal in FC Dallas's 2-1 playoff win over Colorado, yet a similar play earlier in the match hasn't received nearly as much attention. On that occasion, Thiago Martins appeared to settle a ball with his upper arm as he broke behind the Dallas defense, but keeper Dario Sala smothered the shot with a courageous dive.

Both of these plays could have been more clearly evaluated if cameras had been placed behind the goals, which doesn't help the referee or his assistants but would have been of great value to the television audience as well as referees' assessors. Two other tight calls went against the Rapids, much to the displeasure of Coach Fernando Clavijo. The winning goal was scored by Abe Thompson, who was perhaps a hair offside as Ronnie O'Brien struck the diagonal ball that Thompson would chest down and fire low past Joe Cannon.

Referee's assistant Thomas Supple was well placed, in line with the last defender(s), and as the ball was struck only Thompson's torso was offside - he was leaning toward the goal, and his feet were even with those of Pablo Mastroeni. Tough luck for Colorado, but a forgivable miss. And neither Mastroeni nor right back Dan Gargan stepped forward in time to make an offside call indisputable. Gargan wasn't marking up, either.

With five minutes left, Martins chased down a ball being shepherded by Dallas defender Greg Vanney and clipped him on the ankle while taking possession. Martins fed the ball to Nico Hernandez, who rolled it into the net, but referee's assistant Robert Fereday had raised his flag and the goal was annulled. Rather than letting the ball run, Vanney probably should have turned outside and forced Martins into a harsher challenge. The call was probably the right one but it could have gone the other way, as home teams often get the benefit. But not this time.

A full-length, frontal challenge by Brad Guzan in the Chivas USA-Houston match had "unnecessary force" written all over it. Ching only avoided the charge - and perhaps serious injury -- by diving headlong over Guzan's two-footed lunge, yet referee Jorge Gonzalez ruled there was no foul. In such a situation, there need not be contact for the referee to call a foul, for the rules empower the referee to punish any player kicking or tripping an opponent, or attempting to do so. The denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity is also a red-card offense; an ejection would have denied Guzan the chance to save a penalty kick called by Gonzalez later in the game. This miss by the referee was a bad one.



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