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Lack of Goals, Missed Calls Mark Opening of MLS Playoffs

Soccer columnist Paul Gardner laments that the 2006 Major League Soccer playoffs opened with poor officiating and few goals. The four nationally televised first-leg games produced just eight goals, or 2.0 per game, which he said is even fewer, expectedly, than the 2.62 goals per game the league averaged this regular season (the second lowest total in MLS's 11-year history). Gardner adds that the dip was expected because of the way big games are being treated in the modern era: the bigger the game, the more cautiously teams play. He adds: "The MLS playoff format doesn't help matters, seemingly designed to invite caution by the four teams playing away from home." However, two of the four road teams came away with victories over the weekend: D.C. United and FC Dallas. All four games were decided by one goal, which Gardner says, "greatly increases the importance of each goal, and of refereeing decisions," leading him to his point that two of the games were decided by poor referring decisions-one of them "disastrously wrong." You might think that would be Abe Thompson's game-winning goal for FC Dallas against the Colorado Rapids, which was clearly offside, but Gardner was more infuriated by the non-call that was the missed challenge by Brad Guzan, the Chivas USA goalkeeper, on Houston forward Brian Ching. It probably should have been a penalty, but none was awarded. Gardner says it should have been a penalty and a sending-off. As referees sometimes do, Jorge Gonzalez may have tried to make up for the missed call by awarding Houston another penalty toward the end of the game, which was subsequently saved by Guzan.

Read the whole story at The New York Sun »

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