Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cruz Azul Defeats D.C. United; Both United Keepers Ejected

In general the DC United performance in the CONCACAF Champions League has been shambolic to say the least. However, last night, the whole episode was shambolic to say the least. While DC United fell 2-0 to Cruz Azul in Mexico, the results should have, indeed could have, been far worse.

Where to start? First, DC traveled with just 15 players, (that's four possible subs for those of you keeping count): GOALKEEPERS: Louis Crayton, James Thorpe; DEFENDERS: Pat Carroll, Mike Zaher, Marc Burch, Devon McTavish, Gonzalo Martinez, Bryan Namoff; MIDFIELDERS: Ryan Miller, Craig Thompson, Ryan Cordeiro, Quavas Kirk, Clyde Simms; and
FORWARDS: Thabiso Khumalo, Francis Doe. While all these players but Thorpe has seen first team action this year, it would hard to classify this as DC United's first team. But since DC United were all but eliminated form the competition before last night's game, did it really matter?

Let's talk James Thorpe--the second back up--made his first team debut and looked good. He made some good saves and picked up a yellow card for dumping a Cruz player outside the box. He deserved that yellow card. However, in the 31st minute, Thorpe was setting up for a goal kick and then decided to move to the other side of the goal area. Referee Robert Moreno handed Thorpe a second yellow and sent Thorpe off for what appears to have been unsporting behavior for taking too much time. To say it was a soft yellow card would be generous in the extreme. I didn't think Thorpe was taking that much time and to give the second yellow in such a circumstance is simply inexcusable for a such an infraction. But sending off a player for that is just wrong (and that is the referee in me speaking). Would DC have one with Thorpe in net? Maybe not, but he was putting in a good performance and I hope we see him some more so that we can get a better bead on his abilities.

Okay, so Louis Crayton comes in, cold, and just 10 minutes later, Cruz goes up 1-0 before the half. To be honest, it was a good goal and well taken. No shame in that.

The second half gets under and DC is playing a man short. But the young-uns are making a go of it. There were more than a few solid opportunities for goals and Marc Burch launched a rocket that almost found the equalizer. DC didn't look too shambolic, but then in the 88th minute, it all went pear-shaped again.

Around the 87th minute, Gonzalo Martinez took a ding and was on the ground in what looked to be some serious pain (Marinez can act when necessary, but this one looked real). Instead of being sportsmen and playing the ball out of play so that Martinez could get attention (being a goal and a man up, Cruz should have been sporting) Cruz's Pablo Zeballos struck a shot from outside the penaly area and scored. Crayton was livid and charged referee Moreno who promptly tossed Crayton. I didn't see if Crayton touched Moreno and it didn't look like Moreno was anything more than extemely upset, but Crayton got tossed nonetheless.

With no other goalkeeper on the roster, Quavas Kirk (normally a midfielder/striker) donned the keeper's jersey and played 12 or so minutes in net for the United playing on 9 men.

The aftermath is that DC is done in the Champions league after an absolutely dismal showing.

But on a larger scale, the refereeing last night is an example of why most of the rest of the World looks at CONCACAF as a joke confederation. The quality of officiating has generally been poor and there really is no justification for Moreno last night (that is both the United fan and the referee in me speaking). I don't make excuses for DC's play in other Champions Leauge matches, the last night the young-uns did the best they could in circumstances that would rattle even the most seasoned professionals. That they acquitted themselves well in the face of such adversity is a testament to them.

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