CHESTER, Pa. -- Union interim manager John Hackworth shrugged his shoulders when he was asked about the controversial call that led to D.C. United’s set piece goal on Saturday night.
In the 77th minute, Carlos Valdes went to ground on a 50/50 ball with United forward Chris Pontius. Valdes appeared to just nick the ball before Pontius went tumbling to the ground. But referee Ricardo Salazar whistled Valdes for a foul and gave the Union captain a yellow card.
The resulting Branko Boskovic free kick was driven home by Pontius at the far post, the lone goal in a 1-0 result.
“I thought it was a great tackle,” Hackworth said when asked again about Salazar’s decision. “I thought there was a little bit of simulation in the play. At some point those situations are going to change for us. We can’t control it. We can’t do anything about it. We have to defend there. But if we start (talking about the game) after the fact, we’ve got to put a couple of chances in the back of the net and that’s our fault.”
Brian Carroll and Amobi Okugo were right on top of the play.
“Honestly, I think that Carlos just hit (the ball) way out in front of himself, and (Pontius) just fell over,” Carroll said. “It was an unfortunate call, but this is what happens in soccer sometimes.”
“I thought he got the ball, but it’s a tough situation,” Okugo added. “He made the call and we’ve got to do better at defending the set piece.”
There was some confusion after the goal. D.C. appeared to hesitate, and Philadelphia tried to counterattack. But the whistle was blown and the goal was awarded when Pontius was judged to have been onside.
“You know, to be honest, it looked like the ref called a foul, or called something,” added Carroll. “It didn’t look like he called a goal at all. But it was a goal. It happens. We just need to keep playing like that and finish a few more of our chances. That’s just how the game goes sometimes.”
“I thought he called offside, just from his hand signals,” said Union midfielder Michael Lahoud. “The referee seemed pretty frantic at the end. We thought it was offside because he pointed his hands up, then pointed to the circle, then pointed to the play, which was very confusing. I think when we tried to counter, I looked up and saw the D.C. players celebrating -- that’s when it was clear that he had called a goal.”
The Union dominated possession and outshot United 15-6 in Hackworth’s first game as interim manager. But the players reiterated their discontent with the final result.
“Boskovic hit a floated ball that went through traffic,” said Lahoud. “Unfortunately those things happen on set pieces. That was their only saving grace I think. I thought we took it to them. But at the end of the day it’s not good enough. We can sit here and talk about the positives, and I’m encouraged by the display tonight, but until we get the ‘W’ to reward ourselves, it’s not the finished product. It’s not good enough and we’re not content.”
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