To many times in the past, L.A. Galaxy players and coaches have found about 17 different things to blame for losses. Field surface, game conditions, scheduling, refereeing … dependency on foreign oil, concern over declining ratings for The Office … the whole nine yards.
And I’ve always been quick to point out when the excuse caboose was pulling out of the Home Depot Center.
So let’s be fair and credit the Galaxy for mostly handling last night’s controversial finish with the right tone. We talked about the free kick already, about which Galaxy man owns greater culpability for the killer goal that’s going to make Wednesday’s return leg so much more problematic.
But we didn’t exactly get to the controversial foul itself. Referee Ricardo Salazar adjudged that Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas fouled Earthquakes midfielder Simon Dawkins in what looked like a 50-50 challenge.
According to Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, “If that’s a foul in this game, then there’s 100 fouls.”
As a matter of fact – and this should become part of the conversation – Salazar had just a minute earlier awarded the Galaxy a free kick in an even more dangerous location. Landon Donovan had been felled just outside the penalty area.
There was surely some contact from Dawkins. But one could certainly make a case that Donovan left his right leg dangling out there and then went over Dawkins’ tackle attempt. Further, the Galaxy’s wise old attacker certainly was wearing a sneaky little smile when Sean Franklin strode by to pat his teammate on the head and offer up an “atta’ boy!” Not exactly something that would hold up in court … but the burden of proof is far, far less in a soccer blog, as we all know.
It’s no small matter that Dawkins was the very Earthquake involved in both of these telling sequences. Because if Salazar was looking for some kind of “even-up” call, it makes sense that he might afford Dawkins slightly more benefit of the doubt.
At any rate, here’s what Donovan said about it – and his comment strikes the appropriate blend of reasonable protest balanced against acknowledgment of his side’s responsibility:
I’ve said I think if you ask Ricardo again, he’d probably say it was a mistake, and he shouldn’t have called it. But we still had a chance to get our wall together and do a better job, and those kind of plays happen. Sometimes you don’t get calls for you, and you’ve got to do a good job with the resulting free kicks, and we didn’t.”