DC United v Houston Dynamo - Eastern Conference Championship - Leg 1

Was the critical refereeing moment Sunday in Houston really such an egregious mistake?

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Ricardo Salazar’s choice to let Andrew Hainault slide on yesterday’s MLS referee kerfuffle du jour had D.C. United fans seeing red – over the lack of red, that is.

“Oh, the injustice!”

The loudest media voices worked as an accelerant. “Clear red card” was the consensus, and there certainly is a compelling argument to be made.

Written responses from Salazar to a pool reporter’s questions were standard-level opaque; it really didn’t serve to move the debate anywhere.

But I’m going to add a little more nuance here (and probably stinging comments from D.C. United supporters):

I’m not so convinced Salazar got it so wildly wrong. At very least, I can strongly suggest the choice was not as clear cut as everyone wants to make it. This is in direct conflict with voices in the game I greatly respect, like NBC colleague Kyle Martino, whose analysis throughout 2012 has generally fallen been somewhere between “sharp” and “unimpeachable.”

But I think in this case, “clear red,” just got caught in the echo chamber, gaining its own greater velocity and energy.

Here’s what I saw (the video is below, if you haven’t seen the incident in question):

United’s Raphael Augusto fouls Hainault first. No, it’s not much, but it’s probably a foul. Does that 100 percent mitigate Hainault’s clear take-down from there? Probably not … but it adds another layer into this giant lasagna of a choice.

Either way, I see two defenders who are converging. Would they get to Augusto before he could put something on target toward Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall? Impossible to say. But again, I see some enough doubt here that a red card might have been the wrong call – even more wrong than a non-call if you’re convinced there was a flagrant foul from Hainault (pictured above tussling with United’s Lionard Pajoy).

What I saw was yellow card and a free kick. In my mind, it would have been the fair and reasonable choice for all.

Salazar had a bad game; I am clearly on record on that one. But I just don’t think this particular decision to be as egregiously poor as everyone seems intent on declaring. D.C. United’s over-the-top protests added to the lantern-and-pitchfork consternation, by the way, and that should be considered in all this.

One more thing to say about all this:

In the night’s second match, Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado tripped up Landon Donovan as the Galaxy attacker tore in toward Sounders goal. Watch the sequence and decide for yourself, based on the positioning of other defenders, if Donovan wasn’t denied a clear goal scoring opportunity every bit as much as Augusto?

The difference: announcers on site didn’t immediately proclaim a mistake was made, so the hue and cry never took lift off – and therefore never achieved the same critical mass.

Well, that and the fact that Los Angeles ruled the night anyway, I suppose.

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Manchester City 3-1 West Ham: Sterling shines with double

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal with Nolito, Gael Clichy (2ndL) and David Silva (L) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
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West Ham gave Manchester City a bit of a scare early in the second half, but Raheem Sterling‘s second goal of the afternoon provided the home side with all three points at the Etihad Stadium.

The Citizens held on for a 3-1 win on Sunday after Sterling found the back of the net twice, with the second coming in the dying minutes from a close-range tap in.

In the 18th minute, Kevin De Bruyne hit a superb free kick directly into the path of Fernandinho, who smashed home a header to give the hosts a 2-0 advantage.

Without a host of players for the visitors, City took it to their opposition early on when David Silva started a strong attack down the center of the West Ham defense. The Spaniard played the ball out wide to Nolito before finding an open Raheem Sterling, who calmly slotted his effort into the corner for the lead after seven minutes.

Michail Antonio provided West Ham with a lifeline following halftime, however, it wasn’t enough for the visitors to complete the comeback. Antonio headed home at the far post just prior to the hour mark after Arthur Masuaku beat his man and found the attacker.

Video: City clinical on set piece to double lead

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Manchester City has lived up to the billing early on in the Pep Guardiola era, and the first half of Sunday’s match against West Ham has been everything the Spaniard could hope for.

After taking an early lead through Raheem Sterling after seven minutes, Fernandinho doubled the City lead in the 18th minute after a stellar set piece situation.

Kevin De Bruyne‘s stepped up for a free kick before the Belgian curled his effort directly into the path of Fernandinho, who headed home the hosts for the 2-0 lead.

Even though West Ham is understandably undermanned with Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll and others, City is putting on a show right now at the Etihad.

West Brom 0-0 Middlesbrough: Guzan holds Baggies scoreless

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Cristhian Stuani of Middlesbrough takes on Brendan Galloway and Claudio Yacob (R) of West Bromwich Albion  during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough at The Hawthorns on August 28, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t the most attractive perfromance all around but Middlesbrough remained perfect on Sunday after finishing level in their 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion from The Hawthorns.

Brad Guzan earned his second start in net on Sunday since joining Middlesbrough, and the U.S. Men’s National Team keeper was active early on, making two key saves in the first half to keep the match scoreless.

Despite Boro’s success in possession, the team lacked a final touch early on and failed to register a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. West Brom was successful in limiting Alvaro Negredo’s touches early on, which prevented the road side from getting any sort of offensive rhythm.

West Brom continued to press for the opener in the second stanza, however, the home side’s remained limited and largely unthreatening. Craig Dawson had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 63rd minute with a header from close range, but the attempt missed wide of net after Matt Phillips played in the service.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. West Ham (Lineups, Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City battles with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Pep Guardiola remains perfect in his early run in the Premier League and looks to continue that trend on Sunday as Manchester City hosts a difficult West Ham United side at 11 a.m. E.T. from the Etihad Stadium on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Joe Hart has been the talking point for weeks now at City, but with the new signing of Claudio Bravo finalized earlier this week the attention turns to whether or not the Englishman will be offloaded before the transfer window closes next week.

WATCH LIVE: Manchester City vs. Sunderland live online

West Ham needed a late winner a week ago to edge Bournemouth at home, however, Slaven Bilic‘s side has battled hard in both of their fixtures to start the season.

The Hammers will be extremely undermanned on Sunday as Dimitri Payet headlines the group of players that haven’t travelled with the team to Manchester. Striker Andy Carroll won’t be at the Etihad either, leaving West Ham lacking with depth up front.

Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate will play key roles for the Hammers as they look to fill the voids left by Payet and Carroll.

Meanwhile, City will keep Will Caballero in net while Bravo finishes his transition into the squad. Nolito also gets the start alongside Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero up front, which will give West Ham fits defensively.

LINEUPS

Manchester City – Caballero, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Clichy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Nolito, Aguero.
Bench – Hart, Fernando, Nasri, Kolarov, Delph, Iheanacho, Navas.

West Ham – Adrián, Ogbonna, Reid, Masuaku, Collins, Noble, Kouyate, Antonio, Tore, Enner Valencia, Fletcher.
Bench – Randolph, Byrum, Burke, Oxford, Obiang, Lanzini, Calleri.