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Dynamo ride second-half rally to first-leg win over injury-hit D.C. United


D.C. United started Sunday’s Eastern Conference finals opener in Houston as well as they could have hoped, scoring an early goal and putting the Dynamo under pressure to step up their play or risk a costly home result.

Little else went right for D.C. on Sunday.

It started with the injuries, which cost D.C. United Chris Pontius, Marcelo Saragosa and Brandon McDonal. Then there were some questionable calls that didn’t go there way, most notably a would-be foul on Andre Hainault that looked to be red card-worthy. Then came the Houston attack, which overwhelmed the battered D.C. defense with three second-half goals on their way to a 3-1 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium in the first leg of their West Final series.

Hainault opened the scoring for the Dynamo before Will Bruin scored his fourth goal of the playoffs. Defender Kofi Sarkodie provided the insurance goal with a beautiful finish in the 81st minute.

The victory gives Houston a two-goal cushion heading into the second leg at RFK Stadium next Sunday, the same sized cushion the Dynamo enjoyed on their way to a series victory against Sporting Kansas City in the East semifinals.

D.C. United started off brightly, with DeLeon slotting home a rebounded Lionard Pajoy shot. The shot deflected off a Dynamo defender, but counted just the same for D.C., which looked to have the home team on their heels.

Injuries ultimately wore down D.C., with Pontius forced to leave after just 12 minutes and Saragosa replaced in the 40th minute.

Perhaps more importantly than those injuries was a questionable no-call just before halftime that bailed out the Dynamo. Hainault and Raphael Augusto got tangled up going for the ball near the D.C. United penalty area, and replays showed that Hainault dragged down Augusto by the arm. Referee Ricardo Salazar missed the foul though

Now DC United will regroup as they suffer their first loss since losing reigning MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury in September. The status of De Rosario remains in question, along with Andy Najar and Chris Pontius. They will welcome back goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who was serving his suspension for the red card drawn in  Thursday’s semifinal victory against the New York Red Bulls.

The second leg of the Eastern Conference final takes place at RFK Stadium next Sunday at 4 PM EST on NBC Sports.

What did you think of the match? Impressed with Houston? Think Salazar ruined the match? Should Hainault have been sent off, or was that a yellow card at best?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. DCU supporters why do you always whine so much, first the venue switch due to a hurricane and then the game postponement due to a nor’easter in the RB series, now i’s the ref against Houston. Sure it was a missed call, but why do you always feel like you deserve the assistance of some outside force to win? You beat the Red Bulls without this help.

    To be honest, perhaps you should be asking Salazar for a red card against your team seeing how you appear to be better with 10 men on the field and one tweeting off his anger in the locker room.

  2. In the end, with questionable calls both ways.. Houston was clearly the better team…

    Now we see if DC can come back on their home field next Sunday. They have some exciting attackers. Let’s see what happens.

  3. As far as the call, if you look at the view that Salazar saw, which was from behind, it likely looked like Raphael Augusto fouled Hainault because Augusto hit into him causing him to fall and take out Augusto. Now from the front, it was obvious Hainault pulled Augusto down. So ref’s view looks like a foul on Augusto.

    If the ref had decided to make a call, it would have likely come due to advice from the linesman which likely would have ended up with a red card to Hainault. There was some wiggle room as there was a Houston defender back behind the ball, which if the ref or linesman felt he had a chance to play the ball, could have resulted in only a yellow being handed out but I think this is more of a missed call by the linesman then Salazar.

    There was also the missed handball in the box by DC a few minutes prior to this call. I can understand not giving that call a bit more then not giving the Hainault call, but both of them were bad decisions.

    • I also think DC fans are neglecting that he was “letting them play,” in which case what looked from some POVs like foot entanglement would be a no-call. I also think Russell smashing Moffat deserves a call and discipline and he let that go too. He also let some handballs go. It was not a hair trigger no-violence ref.

  4. DC supporters: as a Dynamo fan, I’m sorry the call didn’t go your way so the Dynamo would’ve been down to 10, thus allowing your team to compete.

    Seriously though, as bad a call as it is, DC still let in three goals in a normal 11v11 situation. The only excuse for that is the injuries and the scheduling. The Hainault non-call isn’t why you lost.

  5. In light of the week rest between games there is an argument to be made that Olsen blew the strategy call by risking so many players carrying knocks. They played well for one half but ran out of gas as the injury subs accumulated, which were each avoidable decisions. Houston was unable to run out a first choice side either. It was a fairly warm day and the cold front that stirred up the wind did not pass through until well post game. It might have been a more passive strategy to bunker here, and rest his people, against a weakened Dynamo team, but it might have set him up better for RFK.

    Hainault, well, it was what it was, but their legs got tangled. That to me makes it a judgment call. I’ve seen it called both ways. I would have respected either conclusion. It is not the worst call in the history of the world, it does not throw MLS refs into disrepute. I didn’t feel like the refs did a particularly great job but that had to do with the general level of physicality tolerated.

  6. It amazes me that a team who relys on fouling to stop attacks on a pretty consistant basis is getting so much favoritism in 2 straight series. The non-red card this round was amazingly even worse than the non-PK call in the last series, and I am a SKC fan. Its just gross

    • SKC fans are the best! They were third in the league for fouls committed, due to their physical-style of attack. Then they go up against Houston, and they poop themselves because they can’t punk them around like they do the smaller teams. It’s kind of like a bully when a bigger kid stands up to them.

      The no-call should have been a yellow card, as Camargo was in position to challenge a shot had Agosto beaten Hainault. Hainault would have still been on the field to score the equalizer.

      The best thing United have going for them is the fact that Olsen has a week to get his young team to forget about the no-call. The way I see it though, if Sporting couldn’t get two goals to tie the aggregate score at LIVESTRONG, I don’t see United doing it at RFK.

  7. A a DC fan, this game was obviously tough to swallow. There’s no doubt, outside of people in Houston, that a major call was missed at the end of the first half… A call that would have completely changed the dynamic, and most likely the outcome of the game. Tie that in with the numerous injuries, and we had our backs up against the wall.

    I was hoping to get out of there with nothing more than a one goal loss, but unfortunately now we face an extremely tough task next weekend against a very stout houston defense. I’m hoping though, that dc’s solid play at home continues, and that Houston still continues to struggle on the road.

    Hopefully DC will be able to get some of these injuries back (including, hopefully, de ro) and we will put up a good showing. There’s going to be a hell of a crowd behind our boys at RFK next week, so lets hope they show up to play.

    Personally, my prediction for next week is for DC to jump out to 2-0 lead early in the second half, but Houston adds a late goal late to secure a spot in the finals. I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see.

    • I’ve actually read more neutral articles supporting the call. So outside of the game announcers and DC fans, it think most agree it was a foul and a yellow card at most, not very game altering. The free kick would have been at the 18 or 19yd line and if DC’s other free kicks were indication as to how this one would have gone, it doesn’t even get on frame.

      I really don’t see DC scoring more than 1 goal. SKC was a much healthier and better team and they couldn’t get it down after playing 90min in Houston’s box.

  8. Don’t forget the bad foul called against Mcdonald that allowed Houston to score the quick restart goal. That call really opened the flooodgates. McDonald stood his ground and the Dynamo player simulated getting hit.

  9. Lucky day for the Dynamo. I was shocked when there was no call on that play. Anyway, Salazar has burned us in the past and today he burned DC. It should also be pointed out he made other iffy calls all game. Proud to see the team turn it around in the second half, I was really sweating it with that lineup but DC had it worse injury/suspenion problems to deal with yesterday. With all the injuries somebody should really question the scheduling. It has been grueling especially for the wild card teams. By the end of this game, 4 starters, Taylor, Clark, Moffat and Carr were all out with injuries and DC had to burn all it’s subs on injuries.

  10. Go Dynamo! That being said, I was at the game and the better team won and I’ll tell you why. Sure, the ref blew a call on Andre Hainnault’s foul but did he have a real scoring opportunity? That’s what matter’s when a red card is given. Also, DC United had at least 3 handballs and one of which was in the box and could’ve been a penalty kick for Houston. And the goal that DC United scored the player was offsides and the call wasn’t made.

    • Did he have a real scoring opportunity? If Hainult doesn’t take him down he’s got the ball and no one between him and the goalie, with a chance to shoot to either side. I’d guess that’s about an 80% opportunity, especially with a skilled kid like Agosto.

      • Camargo was in close enough to impact a goal situation according to Salazar, but then again Salazar didn’t think it was a foul.

        I’m a Dynamo fan, and I thought it was a yellow card and free kick. Then again, I thought it was a PK on the handball by DC. It happens… DC just needs to prove they are the better team at RFK next Sat.

  11. Clear scissor tackle and red card, feel bad for D.C., but they’re just going to have to overcome that, just like the injuries, and the last series with NY.

  12. Non ref related question. Does wind affect pro games? Because all 4 goals were scored with the wind. I always assumed that once you got to a certain level of skill things like the wind didn’t really matter.

    • It’s funny you ask that because recently I had a conversation with a man I met here in Memphis who is a coach on one of youth club teams here. He had a professional career overseas, his last team being Wolverhampton. It happened to be a crazy windy at the fields and he said playing in high wind was most professionals least favorite condition, including his. It just made things so unoredictable, especially in stadiums where shape of the building made winds churn and whatnot. Different stadiums all acted differently too. Most weather conditions like rain, snow, extreme cold have fairly predicable effects on the game. Wind was annoyingly unpredictable and would change a million directions a million different times throughout a game. All according to him.

    • I think if the wind is high enough it alters tactics and if it blows steadily in a direction then it can favor the team with the wind at its back. I’ve been in a game in Colorado where it was blowing 20-30 in one direction all game and it ended up 2-2, each team with 2 goals wind at their backs.

  13. As a Houston Dynamo supporter, I AM LOVING all of this whinging over Salazar. Anyone complaining about the ref is like those who complained the most about the moderators during the debates, the losers.

    As I wrote above, DCU’s goal came about after a clearly offsides play that was not called. Whinge about the Hainault play, and you open yourself up for turning a blind eye on that one.

    What I would pay real American dollars to have is a film of Kinnear’s team talk at halftime. I’m thinking the locker room needs a new coat of paint after that one.

  14. Yes, the Hainault foul should have been called. But let’s not forget about the DC handball in their own box that wasn’t called in the first half. Officiating mistakes are not often exclusive to one side. There are repercussions for every call and no-call, and to say that Houston was the only team to get lucky would be incorrect.

  15. It’s a problem that will be unique to soccer. American football has serious officiating issues but solves most of them by stopping the play and looking at the replays for several minutes. You can’t do that in soccer. Bad and non-calls are not just numerous, but are the norm, and it’s not just a MLS problem but also plagues the English Premier League as well, if you remember the farcical refereeing during derby weekend this month at Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park.

  16. You can whine all you want, MLS is not changing. The officiating has been ridiculous for numerous years. I view MLS officials. CONCACAF lite. Repeatedly horrible, and never any improvement

    • When you foul someone on a clear scoring opportunity and there’s no other defender in front of the attacking player….it’s a red card! No matter if it’s just obstruction or a horrible foul

  17. I’m sorry, but everyone saw that for what it was–immediately. “The official was behind” is nonsense. There are multiple linemen. The coaching staff 70 yards away saw that. The fans across the entire stadium saw what it was.

    You people making excuses for that are ridiculous. It was blatantly clear what happened.

    • alright man, you’ve made 3 comments about the call. I’m a united fan adn sure it was a bad call but we’ve got to move on! Can’t wine forever.

      • If you think this problem with the referees is unique to USSF and MLS, you haven’t watched soccer in England, Italy, Spain, or Argentina.

      • Agreed…Look what happened to Ronaldo today. He was elbowed in the eye…serious injury as the eye closed and vision is lost…no foul called, no card….

  18. MLS has a lot of explaining to do for this match. It was embarrassing for the league in such an important match. And to make matters worse the player that should have been ejected ended up scoring after that.

    This entire match was tainted by a completely shameful display of ineptitude. The league must speak out about it.

      • Hainault technically wasn’t the last defender. A midfielder (a Brazilian…can’t remember his name) was closer to the goal and had an angle that could’ve cut down the attacker’s shot once he got past Hainault.

        Funny how with slow-motion and multiple angles on the play, we’re still arguing about this but we expect a referee to be flawless in real-time when viewing the play from one angle (in this case, from behind the players where it looked like the attacker initiated contact).

    • Here’s my take:
      I think it’s a red and clear goal scoring opportunity. Further, if I was a DC fan I probably would have raised my arms and screamed at the TV.

      However, from the ref’s point of view the pull down from the Houston player most likely was not visible. Further it appears that the DC player came in hard with the shoulder on the Houston player first, before the Houston player did the pulldown. The ref does not want to completely change the game with the clear goalscoring opportunity unless he is certain of it.

    • If you only look at the legs getting tangled than I think you ignore it as just that. But when you see him hold onto his arm and pull him down it becomes obvious that is should be a red, the problem is that the ref was from behind. All he saw was them getting tangled up.

    • Looked like a mutual foul to me in the stands. Both got tangled.

      And anyway, despite all this whinging, no card was issued. The call was the call. Want to get worked up over a call? Try DCU’s (sole and solitary) goal That entry pass to set it all up was an offside play, clear as day. Clear to everyone except Salazar that is.

    • At first I thought clear red card. On the replay though, I’m less sure. The initial contact is shoulder to shoulder, and in fact looks like it was initiated more by the DC attacker. Hainault looks like he’s already going down when he scissor tackles him, so it’s hard to tell to what extent it was deliberate vs. legs getting tangled. I think the no-call is pretty defensible, as hard as it may be to swallow for DC fans.

    • RBNY, you may want to examine the difference between letting someone do something, and not being able to stop it. After being behind DC in the standings following a long season, then failing in an at home and away playoff, you have a very weak case pretending that RBs were the stronger side. How many chances do you want? Game is played on the field not paper and by the only standard that matters, the better team is still playing. Better luck next year though.

      • Sure 1 point means so much in the standings. Listen, Hamid stood on his head and when he got got sent off we couldn’t capitalize. We beat ourselves – only DC support thinks that United were the better side. You guys got beat down to the breaking point at RBA, Rafa et all ended our season. Not DC.

      • When you add both legs together I think it was a wash or DC being a hair better. RB was horrible in DC and very very lucky to get out of there tied.

      • You guys? I’m not a DC fan… completely impartial. I’m not anti Red Bulls either, just anti sour grapes. Actually, I’d have to admit that I’d kind of like to see a successful team in NY as I think it would help the league. One point. Yeah RBNY…. thats the thing…. one more point means EVERYTHING in the standings as it does a game. It’s why they keep score. What team does the standing on his head Hamid play for? What team does Rafa play for? This wasn’t a cruel, random act of god or nature, it was a player on your team. Play hard, put some teams, some players under pressure and they crack- that is a big part of the difference between a good team and a bad team, between winning and losing. DC applied pressure- the rest is history….. as is NYRB’s season.

      • No. Rafa sucks bro, he destroyed our season and that was it. If he stays on the field we win that game. Anyone who watched it knows this. Watched it from the the supporters section and DC was dominated minus one play.

      • i agree with you. you all dominated dcu and rafa is the main culprit but there is plenty of blame to go around -from top to bottom.

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