CARSON, Calif. – In a season when opponents are landing blow after blow on Chivas USA, a new source connected on a knockout blow on Saturday.
The fourth official helped doom Chivas to yet another loss when he made a call to give San Jose a penalty kick late in the first half. Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski converted, Chivas never recovered and the Goats eventually fell 2-0, extending their winless streak to seven.
WATCH: Valencia whistled in controversial play
“It’s not good when the fourth official is the most influential guy on the field as he was tonight by making that call,” Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy told reporters after the loss. “That was a tough break to take right before the half.”
The call in question – a forearm that John Valencia delivered to Alan Gordon – seemed rather clear-cut, at least on television replays. And while Chivas players did not defend the action, the circumstances leading up to it and how the call itself was made seemed to rile up the players.
“To me, that’s a big call to make in the game,” Kennedy said. “I actually remember the play because Wondo hit John with a high elbow on the long ball out so Wondo hit John with an elbow, ball goes wide and you know how physical Gordon and [Steven] Lenhart are, and they tangled and there was another retaliation. Believe me, it’s not like they’re just innocent.”
Some players said they had not seen the Valencia forearm immediately after the match but did not contend second-hand reports from it. At least some members of the coaching staff though had seen Valencia’s forearm. Still, even then questions remained.
“The frustration there is, having seen the replay, is one of our players puts us in a tough situation,” Chivas USA assistant coach Greg Vanney said. “The frustration there is also that none of the officials actually involved in the game actually saw it. It was the fourth official who called it all the way from midfield. I’m not really sure how that plays out and whose responsibility is what, but I know the two linesman or the center actually didn’t see the play.”
Vanney spoke to the media after the match in place of Robin Fraser, as the gaffer was ejected for arguing with the officials after the first half ended. After everything had happened, the aftermath was too much for Chivas to overcome.
“It shows that he still has the passion, still has the fire, regardless of the fact that we can’t buy a win at the moment,” said defender Danny Califf.
The damage was done, though. Wondolowski’s goal, Fraser’s ejection and San Jose’s lead all sparked from the game-changing call.
“I don’t know how they could change the game like that with such a call,” said Chivas captain Shalrie Joseph, who was booked for dissent following the call. “The game was going fine, we were in it, battling, creating chances. It was one of those games where the first goal would definitely determine the outcome. For them to change the game like that was frustration, and we weren’t able to get out of that funk after being down 1-0.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.