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D.C. United still crying foul after ugly loss

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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

Defeat in Houston leaves it in deep trouble heading back to RFK

The head of the group that oversees officiating in Major League Soccer and the referee in D.C. United's match against the Houston Dynamo both offered explanations of the most controversial decision in the Dynamo's 3-1 victory Sunday.

Neither shed any light on why referee Ricardo Salazar was unable to spot Dynamo defender Andre Hainault locking the right arm of United midfielder Raphael Augusto and pulling him to the ground in first-half stoppage time with nothing between the two of them and the net but Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. Replays showed Salazar behind the action with a clear view of the play.

"Based on my angle, there was contact by both players, and therefore no offense was identified," Salazar said in an interview with the league's website. Salazar didn't blow his whistle, and the no-call hurt double when Hainault scored a game-tying goal in the second half.

Up next
Dynamo at D.C. United
Eastern Conference finals
When » Sunday, 4 p.m.
Where » RFK Stadium
TV » NBCSN

The result leaves United, already ravaged by injuries and suspensions, with the massive task of winning by two goals just to force an overtime period in the second game of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday at RFK Stadium. United can advance to MLS Cup only with a three-goal victory or a penalty shootout win.

"Everybody in the stadium, everybody on our bench, everybody on their bench, everybody at home saw that it's a red card," United coach Ben Olsen told reporters. In his view, it was the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, a sending-off offense in FIFA's rulebook.

Peter Walton, general manager of the Professional Referees Organization, said he thought it was a foul and expected a yellow card.

While Hainault will be on the field with a two-goal cushion next weekend, United only can hope it mends in time. Starters Chris Pontius (groin), Marcelo Saragosa (hamstring) and Brandon McDonald (calf) all left the first game early. Andy Najar, suspended for the series, will play for Honduras on Wednesday.

Dwayne De Rosario (knee) could return for his first appearance since September, and starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid should play after serving a red card suspension. Following his ejection in the conference semifinals, Hamid limited his postgame comments, ending with, "I have just five words: They can't hold us back."

It may have turned into a rallying cry for a team that already thought of itself as an underdog before it actually became one. United has scored more than one goal only once in its last nine games but had 15 multigoal matches during the regular season. The Dynamo have suffered multigoal road losses seven times.

"We can score two goals, especially knowing that we need two goals," Olsen said. "Next week should be a lot of fun. It should be an interesting game, going back to D.C. We get to rest. They get to rest. Now you're talking about two different teams that are healthy. I'm sure it'll be a great night."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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