D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy shared the points for the second time this season on Saturday night in an ill-tempered 1-1 battle that featured more cards and bruises than offensive chances.
Both coaches were defiant in their post-game remarks, with United's Peter Nowak pointing out some questionable calls and the Galaxy's Sigi Schmid noting the physical play.
Referring to a number of United penalty kick appeals waved off by referee Kevin Stott, Nowak wondered caustically, "How many PKs have we had at home? I don't know." (The answer is zero, actually. United has not been awarded a penalty kick all season, home or away.)
Conversely, he was skeptical of the call that led to L.A.'s 66th minute penalty kick, calling it an "accident." Nowak also praised his squad's defensive effort and work rate against the league's top-scoring team, who were outshot 14-5.
"There was a lot of heart out there," said Nowak, "the boys want to be in first place, and soon they will be. I am proud of them. There was pretty good defensive cover on both sides."
Recent signing Ezra Hendrickson, an emergency entry into the Black-and-Red midfield, rued missing one of the game's best chances when he headed a cross from Josh Gros over the bar in the 33rd minute.
"I did all right," he said, "but if I put away that header in the first half, it could've been a different game."
Hendrickson has figured as a fullback for most of his MLS career, but rose to the occasion after Earnie Stewart could not shake off a groin strain.
"I'm just trying to fill in," he said. "It was a gametime decision because of Earnie. Naturally I'd like to be in the back, but I want to help then team in any way I can."
United was aggressive from the very beginning, with defender Bryan Namoff earning a yellow card only 17 minutes into the game for his persistent fouling of Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz.
"It was a tough battle," said Namoff. "Ruiz and [Alejandro] Moreno are very dangerous attackers, but we handled them well. Obviously you want to get on a player like Ruiz early in the game, and try to get them out of their game."
This did not escape Schmid on the Galaxy bench, who wondered if his players were being adequately protected.
"They were physical from the start," he said. "Alejandro Moreno can show you the backs of his legs.
"It seems that [in this league] we're fast to get a yellow card for grabbing someone's jersey, but when somebody takes out your legs from behind, it might be a yellow card. Most players would prefer to have their jersey grabbed."
Schmid was full of praise for his weary side, who are halfway through an arduous road trip that continues with a U.S. Open Cup match against the Minnesota Thunder in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
"The guys have stood up to every challenge," he said, "Tonight I sensed the making of a team. You've got to find a way to get results in these situations, and we have a lot of guys stepping up."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story is not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.