In the laws of the game “excessive force” is often used to give referees guidance on whether a foul deserves an ejection or simply a caution.
In Saturday night's Texas Derby referee Ricardo Salazar deemed that David Horst’s 60th-minute tackle on Fabian Castillo crossed that line and issued him a red card, squarely tipping the balance in favor of an FC Dallas squad that smelled bllood in the water and scored three goals in the following 10 minutes to earn themselves a 4-1 result.
While there was no question Horst committed a foul, the Dynamo questioned the severity of Salazar's judgement against the 6-foot-4 center back, who stands a full eight inches above the 5-foot-8 Castillo. After the game, Dynamo forward Giles Barnes felt the punishment did not fit the crime.
“For me it’s not a red card,” the Englishman said. “I’m facing it, I’m jogging back towards and I don’t think it’s a red card. Maybe because Horst’s a big guy and [Castillo]’s not so big it looked worst that it is.”
Ejections have become something of a tradition in the Texas Derby. With Horst's transgression there have been 14 red cards – seven on each side – in 25 all-time meetings.
The one on Saturday changed the game.
“The red card was a foul,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “It’s the referee’s judgment and you’ve got to live with it.”
Kinnear also called the ensuing goal by Je-Vaughn Watson on a quick free kick directly after the ejection “sucker punch,” as it capped an hour of soccer where Houston felt they were the better team. Outside of a penalty kick goal by Michel in the 31st minute after a foul by Ricardo Clark, Houston looked like the team most likely to score a second before the red card.
Suffering that disadvantage turned the game and the emotional drain looked to gut the Dynamo.
“I’ve not been a game where we’ve been so far ahead of a team and just throw it away like we did,” said midfielder Andrew Driver. “I think this is one that hurts so much because I feel for an hour of the game we dominated so much. We’ll end up fine, but obviously it’s gutting and at the moment it’s hard to take. There are a few positives we can take, but we just need to cut out those little negatives.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.