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Dicey decisions leave MLS playoff hopefuls tied
by Ridge Mahoney, October 3rd, 2008 7AM



An unfair decision but perhaps a fair result left both FC Dallas and San Jose wishing they'd done more in their 1-1 tie Thursday night at Pizza Hut Park.

Trailing, 1-0, in the final minutes to a Ryan Johnson goal, FC Dallas tied the game with a Kenny Cooper penalty kick after referee Abby Okulaja ruled that Quakes midfielder Francisco Lima had blocked a cross with his arm. Every available replay showed the ball coming off Lima's chest, yet referee assistant Greg Boles supported - or refused to overrule - Okulaja's decision, and Cooper scored his 16th goal of the season by sending keeper Joe Cannon the wrong way.

Okulaja had earlier chosen not to send off FCD defender Dulio Davino when he swatted down a bouncing ball a few yards outside the penalty area as San Jose forward Scott Sealy was about to run onto it. Instead, the issued a caution, one of four he handed out in a match often so taut with tension and indecision it barely flowed.

The point did little to help either team's playoff chances. San Jose (7-10-9, 30 points) rose out of the Western Conference cellar but is still four points shy of the playoff-guaranteed third-place slot currently occupied by three teams, including FCD (8-9-10, 34 points).

Cannon and Dallas keeper Dario Sala each rescued their teams once in the first half. Cannon turned away an Andre Rocha free kick and Sala stoned Quakes catalyst Darren Huckerby one-v-one. Nick Garcia's sliding deflection of a Cooper shot sent the teams into the dressing room at 0-0.

Its offense slumbering thanks in part to FCD's success in containing Huckerby and fellow midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, San Jose broke through a minute after Johnson replaced O'Brien on the right side. Defender Jason Hernandez launched a long ball out of the back that Sealy moved to collect, but instead he let it bounce just over his head, and Johnson outpaced the surprised FCD back line to stick a low shot under Sala's desperate lunge.

Another dicey decision went against FC Dallas in the 60th minute. Defender James Riley grabbed Jeff Cunningham as he raced at goal and the FCD striker tumbled to the ground as Cannon sprawled to block his weak shot. Cunningham raised his arms in appeal but Okulaja let play continue.

Eric Avila, Dominic Oduro and Victor Sikora came on as subs to increase pressure on the Quakes' back line, but San Jose held out until the 89th minute when Avila, on the right flank, cut the ball back and drilled a line-drive cross that struck Lima. He protested incredulously, pointing to this chest, but Okulaja pointed to the spot and confirmed his decision after the briefest of consultations.

San Jose nearly stole back the win in stoppage time when a sweet Riley cross arrowed towards substitute Jovan Kirovski, whose firm header sailed wide of the goalpost.

FCD finished with a 14-11 edge in shots and each keeper came up with three saves. Coupled with a 0-0 result at San Jose in their only other meeting May 3, the tie leaves the teams deadlocked in the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results. The second tiebreaker is goal difference, which Dallas leads by a huge margin, plus-6 to minus-5.

Both teams resume league play Oct. 11, when the Quakes host Chivas USA in yet another Western Conference cracker, and FCD plays its final interconference match of the season against Toronto FC at Pizza Hut Park.

Oct. 2 in Frisco, Texas

FC Dallas 1 San Jose 1. Goals: Cooper pen. 89; Johnson (Hernandez) 58.
FC Dallas - Sala, Serioux (Oduro, 69), Davino, Moor, Wagner, Rocha, Guarda (Avila, 62), Ricchetti, Saragosa (Sikora, 82),  Cooper, Cunningham.
San Jose - Cannon, Riley, Garcia, Hernandez, Denton, O'Brien (Johnson, 57),Grabavoy, Lima, Huckerby, Alvarez (Salinas, 71), Sealy (Kirovski, 89).
Yellow Cards: FC Dallas - Cunningham 68, Davino 71; San Jose - Grabavoy 61, Huckerby 74.
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja.
Att.: 7,173.



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