The San Jose Earthquakes hadn’t conceded a penalty for 17 consecutive matches. On Sunday, they gave one up for a second straight game, and Whitecaps midfielder Barry Robson made them pay. The Scottish DP powered it home in the 62nd minute to deal the Quakes a 2-1 defeat that left the visitors asking plenty of questions on their way out of BC Place.
Technically, it was just the one question, but it came from multiple members of the Quakes: Why did referee Jair Marrufo appear to change his mind on the game-turning play, initially declining to call a foul on a challenge by San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin against Vancover’s Camilo, then pointing to the spot on the basis of help from an assistant more than halfway across the field?
“There’s zero contact on that penalty,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “[Marrufo] is four yards away, he calls ‘play on,’ tells the guy to get up. And then the guy 40 yards away, he decides the game.
“It’s very frustrating for the players, especially at the end of a long week, where they’re busting their tails. We should have had a point on the road. . . . There’s got to be some accountability from the league office on these guys.”
Busch, who spoke in a calm tone of voice from a quiet Quakes locker room, was particularly unhappy given that Camilo’s first touch -- after latching onto a deflected shot by Robson -- ran long, making it no sure thing he’d even have had a goal-scoring opportunity.
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“If he’s 20 yards away from the play, fair enough,” Busch said of Marrufo. “But he’s four feet away from the play. And the ball, it [rolls] right into my hands. I had possession. He says, ‘play on.’ It’s baffling to me. That’s the difference in the game, right there.”
San Jose coach Frank Yallop also felt his club should have taken at least a point, rather than a second consecutive road loss to the Whitecaps.
“[Camilo] is already going down,” Yallop said. “Is there contact? I think in the end there is, because he’s going down and leaving his foot there. These calls go for you [in one match], they don’t go for you [in another]. It’s just disappointing to lose a game on that call.”
On the positive side, San Jose could console themselves with the knowledge they’d survived their next-to-last three-game week of the season with six points in hand from wins against Dallas and Real Salt Lake. Outside of a Wednesday match Sept. 19 against Portland, the Quakes will play nothing but weekend matches as they try to maintain a four-point lead against RSL in both the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races.
“I think the boys are tired, we gave it a hell of an effort again today,” Busch said. “Credit to Vancouver, they did the same thing as well, so it was a level playing field in that aspect. But it’s tough to try to get up every game when you have three games in a week, we’re trying to get guys healthy and every game we’re in is pretty much a battle. We’re not cruising through games, so guys have to battle for 90 minutes. And it wears you down after a while. So it’ll be good to get back to one game every week.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.