The Houston Dynamo showed great resiliency after claiming a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC down a man, but the way they were put in that disadvantageous position was brought into question after the game.
Rookie center back AJ Cochran was shown a straight red card when he was whistled for bringing down Toronto FC forward Luke Moore in the box in the 55th minute. Moore broke into the box and past Cochran, who grabbed his jersey.
On first look, the whistle seemed warranted, as Cochran pulled the jersey and impeded Moore from progressing into a scoring chance. The post-game questions, though, surrounded the decision by referee Armando Villarreal to give a red card to Cochran for denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley, who got away with a close no-call minutes earlier, looked to be in the area and able to make a play on the ball.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty kick, but that’s the way the game goes,” said Cochran’s center back partner, David Horst. “He made the decision, and we had to live with it.”
Horst was initially given the red card, a move that caused a good amount of deliberation among the referees and added to the confusion for everyone; especially him.
“I was quite surprised when I was given the red card,” he said. “AJ and I are pretty big guys; we’re big country boys. Eric [Brunner] came in and did a great job.”
The Dynamo lived on, with goalkeeper Tyler Deric besting star striker Jermain Defoe’s penalty kick and backing a standout defensive effort on the way to a 1-0 win.
“It’s tough, especially when it’s a center back,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear, who subbed Brunner on for Omar Cummings to help the defensive side of the ball after the ejection. “We really had to change things around. You knew right then, especially with the situation we’re at in the league standings, that Toronto was going to pile it on heavy, and they did.”
Kinnear was correct. TFC took 14 second-half shots, many of which came after the ejection, but the Dynamo took a crucial three points in the end.
Houston will be without Cochran, who has formed a good partnership with Horst in the center of defense, for another must-win game at home against D.C. United looming Sunday (2 p.m. CT; TICKETS). Jamaican international Jermaine Taylor, who will play for his national team against Japan on Friday, is expected back in Houston on Saturday and is the most likely replacement against D.C.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.