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D.C., Philadelphia play to draw after chaotic finish at RFK Stadium

UnionUnited (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Three red cards, two controversially disallowed goals and a missed penalty by a reigning MVP with the game in the balance. Just another run-of-the-mill outing for rivals D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union.

When the dust settled after a series of hard tackles, lost tempers and focus-altering calls by referee Mark Geiger, the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in front of 12,312 at RFK Stadium, with Brian Carroll's eighth-minute tally being offset by Amobi Okugo's 64th-minute own goal. 

With the result, D.C. remained unbeaten at home since an opening night loss to Sporting Kansas City (8-0-3) and retook sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference, while Philadelphia blew a 1-0 lead and missed a chance to secure three necessary points with the club's playoff chances growing slimmer by the game.

While the goals are what decided the result, what happened in the latter stages of the match was cause for controversy. 

After Chris Pontius drew a penalty on Roger Torres in the 86th minute, Dwayne De Rosario — with NBC Sports Network's camera's following his every move for the next installment of MLS36 — stepped to the spot and converted. 

Geiger whistled for a retake though, with the postgame explanation given to D.C. being that Hamdi Salihi entered the arc atop the box and came within 10 yards of the ball before it was struck. With D.C. players bracing for a retake, Philadelphia attempted to play on, and while Branko Boskovic attempted to retrieve the ball from Torres, he entered a physical altercation with the diminutive Colombian and was given a straight red card. After cooler heads prevailed, De Rosario skied his retake, keeping the score level.

In stoppage time, D.C. was reduced to nine men after centerback Emiliano Dudar entered into a harsh challenge from behind on Antoine Hoppenot, but the Union could not capitalize on the two-man advantage, and they were reduced to 10 themselves when Sheanon Williams was sent off for his second yellow on what appeared to be a clean tackle from behind on Pontius. 

All of those events followed Okugo's inadvertent header off Boskovic's dangerous free kick in the 71st minute that cancelled out Carroll's tally. The D.C. goal came minutes after an apparent equalizer was wiped off the board in the 64th minute. Nick DeLeon finished into an empty net after a parried save by Zac MacMath was touched away by both Salihi and Gabriel Farfan. Salihi fell over MacMath, though, with the contact preventing the Union keeper from getting up to try and defend DeLeon's follow-up shot, and the goal was taken off the board. 

Carroll, a D.C. midfielder from 2003-2007, marked his latest return to RFK by poking home a ball on the line after a long Freddy Adu free kick in the eighth minute. Adu's 40-yard lofted ball into the mixer pinballed off two players before being inadvertenly headed by Perry Kitchen toward the goal, where Carroll got the final touch.

D.C.'s first chance to equalize came in the 10th minute, when Pontius ripped a blast from 35 yards that was tipped over the bar for a corner. Newcomer Lionard Pajoy, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for Danny Cruz on Thursday, headed on target off the ensuing corner kick, but MacMath touched it over for another corner.

As the half wound down, D.C. got more dangerous. De Rosario curved a ball from 20 yards just high after smart interplay between Pajoy and Pontius, with Pajoy laying off a ball for the D.C. captain at the top of the box. Pajoy nearly tallied again just before halftime, but Adu headed his header off a corner off the line just seconds before the break to preserve the lead. 

D.C. has the task of moving on to a match against the surging Chicago Fire on Wednesday with both Boskovic and Dudar ineligible because of their red card suspensions. The Union have a couple of more days to prepare for life without Williams for another nationally televised contest, when Real Salt Lake comes to PPL Park on Friday.

Here are highlights from the match:


  1. There are two spots that encroachment can occur. If you notice outside the box there is an arc, being inside that arc is the same as being inside the box. With him being several feet inside the arc before the ball was kicked and the Union player being a step inside the box the ref ruled, per FIFA rule book, correctly. Why Salihi started sprinting before DeRo kicked the ball I don’t know but he cost his team a goal and probably the full 3 points.

  2. That would be the 4th officials fault. If you put a number up in green that doesn’t mean you are coming off but on. If the 4th official hadn’t messed up Freddy should have been carded.

  3. The board was broken and it took the three tries to get the information up correctly. They talk about it in the telecast. Once it was fixed he could have come off faster, it was about 20 sec or less which is a little much. Plus I think the ref cut him some slack because he gave williams a card for time wasting mid way through the first half which was a poor call but pluasible correct.

  4. You either do not know the rules or don’t understand what you are watching. Calling encroachment is kind of weak but is correct. When the ball leaves DeRo’s foot there are 2 DC player entirly in the arch and 1 philly player with a foot in the box. The DC players enter the arch first. The rule is you can not be in the box or within 12 yards of the ball hence the arch. The call was weak but correct. The first diallowed gaol was a bad call but is not surprising as goalies get protection simaler to NFL QBs. On to the Red cards;per Jack Mac’s Red card two weeks ago pushing a player to the ground is a red card so the first red card was correct. Second Red card studs up change from behind regardless of how much of the play you get; MLS stated this woould be a straight Red as season start. They have been inconsitent but the call was correct. Third red card, second yellow on Williams. Tackle was all ball bad call. With regards to issuing yellows earlier in the match it might have made a difference if they had cut down on the physical play in the first half but they didn’t. By late in the second the offical had let to much go and could not card for hard fouls as he had let it go on for the whole second half. Way I see the offical had 2 or 3 wrong calls that were just flat out wrong. one or two other decision were correct but certainly worth arguing as they seem to be allowed to pass most times. In the end DeRo should have just finished and the point is moot.

  5. Yeah I know. DeRo can’ win MVP because he’d need to get traded twice in order to be eligible. That was step 0 last season.

  6. I don’t disagree – I would normally say that regardless of what the official does you need to keep your head as a player, but that match was so bizarre that there may have to be a “Geiger exception” where things get so out-of-hand that nobody is held responsible for the actions any longer.
    By the end of the match the DCU players didn’t even know who to be mad at any longer.

    Reminded me a bit of the Sounders match early this year where Geiger clearly red-carded the wrong player (Hurtado in this case) and refused to correct it despite his error being pointed out to him.

  7. I agree with elgringorico about the RFK effect on attendance. RFK has lots of history and character, but it’s a dump and not on par with other MLS stadiums. And DCU is not planning to build $220 million stadium (such extravagant expenses are limited to Red Bulls, whose stadium has average attendance about 3K more than RFK this season). Other MLS teams spent a lot less on their ss stadiums with three lowest spenders being Columbus, Portland and Montreal (at $28.5 million, $31 million and $40 million, respectively). I think DCU expects to spend something comparable to what Toronto and Chicago spent on their stadiums ($62.5 and $98 million, respectively). If they build it in a good location, the stadium will be sold out.

  8. Charles, it was pouring down rain the entire day.

    Also the low attendance numbers can be partially attributed to dissatisfaction with RFK. Lots of people don’t make the trip because it’s old and they’re fed up that we don’t have a new stadium yet.

    With a new stadium, attendance would average double that, at least.

  9. 12,000 fans ? I just don’t get it….at all.
    What the heck is wrong with DCU soccer fans ?

    If I were looking to build a stadium at a cost of $200M+, nervous would not describe my feelings at seeing 12k for big later season game.

    $200 million cost/($30 per customer x 12k customers) =
    A helluva lot of games to breakeven.

  10. Those of you saying the Red was right on Dudar are probably only looking at that one play. In the context of an appropriately refereed match, you are right. In this case, Geiger had let all sorts of brutality go on with simply warnings or no acknowledgement at all. Tackles like that were commonplace in the match and only punished at that one time and later, on a much worse call, for a 2nd yellow on a Philly player. The match was a disgrace for referees.

  11. The funniest thing about the Freddy Adu sub is the stadium announcer said his name twice, when he wouldn’t get off the field. “Now leaving the match, Freddy Adu!… Freddy Adu!”

  12. Thanks fischy, as a fellow Arlingtonian, we know stupid when we see it ;-). My point is that our guys lost their heads. I was at the game just like you and am livid with the Geiger show. DCU is to blame for BB’s red (he knows better) and not finishing our chances (common theme but at least we are making progress compared to the last few seasons). We need to be more professional both on the ball and when play is stopped and let the A#$-hats from Phily and the Geigers of the league show their quality on their own.

  13. True, I forgot about that. I think moreso than the ref’s bad calls, the DC players were reacting to some really unprofessional time wasting by Philly. They knew DC was going to score and wasted probably 10 miuntes total between the PK scenario and the stalled substitutions.

  14. You see “heart and passion.” I see constant whining about the refs after every non-win, fighting with teammates, and an unwillingness to put out 100 percent on the field (except for Najar and Korb). This team seems more primed for a meltdown than a late-season push. I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see on Wednesday.

  15. Did you not see the two dcu players (Pontius was one) encroach in the arc before the kick was taken?

    Ref made the right call. DeRo just needs to make the dot kick.

    Can’t comment on the post-pk cards. Didn’t see what happened.

    thought the red on dudar was correct. from behind, studs up. Pontius knew it was the right call…

  16. Hate where the team is going? Don’t be ridiculous. They’ve slipped lately but the right pieces are in place, and if they can stay healthy and make the playoffs then they’ll contend for the title. IMO it’s great to see the players show some heart and passion, get riled up a bit for a late season push.

  17. Of course Geiger called the encroachment against DCU (Salihi specifically). But go to the Match highlights on MLS. They’ve got a great camera angle from above the GK (McMath). As the ball is leaving DeRo’s foot, there is exactly one Philly player encroaching (no-one from DCU). Then another player from Philly enters the arc and Salihi who had started further back and began running as DeRo approached the kick enters the area. If you look AFTER the ball is in the net, you see Salihi. If you watch as the kick is taken you see at least 1 if not 2 Philly players encroach. It was a bad call b/c while technically you had encroachment, it was by about a yard and the call on Salihi was made b/c he got a running start so you noticed him only after the kick was taken (b/c of his movement).

  18. Also, the highlights don’t show the Adu substitution. Adu was on the field, Hackworth decides to sub him off, play is stopped, the PA announcer makes the call and…nothing. Adu won’t come off. Geiger gestures to him, the 4th official is waving the sign…and Adu won’t come off. The PA announcer makes the call a SECOND time. Geiger then walks over to Adu and points to the sideline. Adu looks to the sideline and still doesn’t go off. Geiger I believe then pointed to the sideline. Adu then walks off slowly (no trot or jog). I’m guessing this took 45 seconds. In a game full of bizarre moments, this is one of the things that stood out…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a PA announcer make the sub announcement twice in what looked like an effort to get the player’s attention. Bizarre.


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