CHESTER, Pa. – On a weekend of controversy and heated debate in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Philadelphia vs. Houston Eastern Conference semifinal series had its fair share in the first leg won by Houston 2-1 on Sunday night.
There’s the alleged hand ball by Houston’s Brad Davis in the penalty area, the goal by Houston's Calen Carr which the Union argue was tinged by offside and then there’s the Gabriel Farfan flying boot that struck Dynamo winger Danny Cruz after just three minutes.
Referee Jair Marrufo punished Farfan with a yellow card but ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman wanted more.
“It should be an ejection,” Twellman said on the match broadcast. “That’s coming in recklessly with the boot real high.”
A day after the disputed play, Farfan told MLSsoccer.com that he and Cruz spoke about it later during the game.
“Definitely,” he said after a regeneration session on Monday afternoon. “I made sure he was alright once right after the goal was scored and after we talked about it and I made sure he was alright.”
For those who still support Twellman’s position that the referee’s card should have been red, Houston Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear has a dissenting opinion.
“I don’t think it was a malicious tackle,” Kinnear said after the match. “Farfan was just following the ball and mistimed. … It was not to send a message or anything. Just a mistimed tackle.”
“The guy is 5-foot-6 and he put his head in Gabriel’s knee,” said Philly manager Peter Nowak, the same case Farfan made to the referee on the field. “I think regardless of the decision, the game settled down after that and I think the referee did a good job to settle down.”
When it comes to Thursday night’s second leg at Robertson Stadium, the Union knows exactly what it will take to settle down: a goal.
“We need to go and get a goal as soon as we can,” Farfan said. “We need to get that one goal and with that one goal, things will open up and we’ll get the result there.”
The 23-year-old former Club América youth product wants to see his team replicate their second-half performance from the first leg during which the Union put the Dynamo under severe pressure.
“I think that is the inclination of the team [to attack],” Farfan said. “We got forward a lot in the second half and it was a shame we could not come out with the goal but we got a lot of good looks. That’s pretty much what our game is all about.”