Whether the Columbus Crew deserved to be in position to win against the LA Galaxy after a 78th-minute goal by Bernardo Anor put them in the lead is in question.
So, too, in the eyes of the Crew, are a pair of late penalty calls that sealed a 2-1 defeat to LA on Thursday at the StubHub Center.
"We didn't deserve points after the first half we played," Crew defender Danny O'Rourke told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "After we got that goal, if we had held on, it would have felt like we would have stolen one."
For a long while, it appeared the Crew might actually do that despite the Galaxy (8-7-3, 27) holding all the important statistical advantages. LA finished the match ahead in shots (28-3), shots on target (6-4), corner kicks (10-1) and possession (59.3-40.7 percent).
Then the two late penalties were whistled.
"I can't comment on the penalties until I see the video, but the referee didn’t help us out," O'Rourke said, expressing a common sentiment in the Columbus locker room.
On the first penalty, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was called for tripping Jose Villarreal as the forward attempted to dribble through the box. Robbie Keane converted in the 85th minute to tie the match.
"That was questionable," Anor told MLSsoccer.com. "The circumstances and how the game presents itself, the referee's position must be tough."
But the dubiousness of the first penalty paled in comparison to the second.
In the 92nd minute, the Crew's goalscorer, Anor, challenged Keane in the area as a cross floated in from the wing. Replays seemed to indicate there was minimal contact, but the Irish international fell to the turf, and referee Sorin Stoica blew for a second penalty kick in seven minutes. Keane nailed the second one into the same lower right corner as the first to send the Crew (5-8-5, 20 points) to a third straight defeat and fourth in the past five outings.
"He's smart," Anor said of Keane. "He was waiting for a tiny touch for him to go down. He was fortunate to get the call. It's the referee's call, and we can do nothing about that."
Crew coach Robert Warzycha was disappointed with the decisions, as well.
"Andy said he got a hand on the first one," he told MLSsoccer.com. Of the second one, he said, "Bernardo was jumping for the ball. He wasn't trying to push the guy. It was shoulder-to-shoulder. Too bad they both happened at the end of the game."
O'Rourke, ultimately, admitted that the Crew could've done better to help themselves "steal" one.
"When you get a lead, you have to do a better job of defending it," he said.