Referee decisions have proven to be a running controversy for MLS clubs participating in the CONCACAF Champions League this season. Thursday night was no different for the Houston Dynamo in their 1-1 draw with CD Olimpia.
Minutes after Adam Moffat’s 57th minute equalizer in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Mexican referee Marco Rodriquez showed a straight red card to Houston center back Nathan Sturgis for a late challenge. Facing 30 minutes down a man, Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear made some quick tactical adjustments to overcome the ejection and preserve a crucial road point.
“When it was time to knuckle-down and defend and fight they did that, too, so I’m really happy for them,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “We got scored on pretty early and it didn’t phase the guys at all. Mac [Kandji] came in and provided some good energy going forward. You protect the score a little bit, but I thought we broke well at times. We deserved everything they got tonight except for the red card.”
Boswell and Kandji, along with 84th-minute sub Will Bruin, came on and helped stabilize a situation that could have gotten out of hand given the shorthanded situation.
“It’s unfortunate that we gave up the goal early, but we defended like crazy the rest of the game,” Boswell told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought we were a good group and did well when we went down a man. I think we played better when we went down a man and we did well.”
Kandji’s play was a big part of the late push. The explosive winger brought his typical pace and unpredictability to the match, keeping Olimpia honest and preventing the hosts from pushing too many numbers into the attack.
In fact, on several occasions Kandji looked to be in on goal, only to have his progress impeded by physical contact. That caught Kinnear’s attention.
“If it wasn’t for the referee on the break a couple of times, we could’ve had some fouls,” Kinnear said. “I am mystified at how these referees keep getting assignments when they affect every game they’re a part of.”
According to Boswell, the decisions made by Rodriquez were not a surprise.
“We knew going in that the referee could play a part and we’re actually pretty familiar with that referee,” the defender said. “We kind of joked around before the game and said ‘we’re going to be given a red card or a penalty kick’ and thankfully it was a red and not a penalty.”
While some calls may have seemed to trip up a potential win, the referee did look away on what replays showed may have been a 52nd-minute hand ball offence committed by defender Andre Hainault on a goal-line clearance.
In the end, the Dynamo pulled a point out of a hostile environment in a tough game and set themselves up well to come out of Group 3 with two home matches remaining.
“It’s big,” Kinnear said of the result. “We talked about trying to get positive results the first two games and we did.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.