Omar Cummings' stoppage-time goal rescued a crucial draw for the Houston Dynamo in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the New York Red Bulls.
After the game, the club felt they had been denied a chance to earn even more from the match.
Seconds from the final whistle, Cummings took possession of the ball at the top of the Red Bulls penalty box with a chance to turn and score a winner at the death. Ibrahim Sekagya appeared to clip Cummings as he attempted to spin past the Red Bulls center back, and after the contact Cummings fell to the BBVA Compass Stadium turf.
Referee Ricardo Salazar waved play on, but according to the Dynamo, the contact necessitated a penalty kick.
“I think it was a penalty, I really do,” said Brad Davis, who stood some 15 feet away from the play. “I don’t think the guy touched the ball. I think it was definitely a foul.”
If the call had been made, the Dynamo would have been given a chance to pull off an improbable stoppage-time comeback win.
The timing of the game may have worked against them, however. Dynamo striker Will Bruin alluded to the conventional wisdom that penalty-kick calls must be clear-cut in big moments.
“It looked like he got him from behind at the top of the box, but it is what it is,” said Bruin. “I don’t expect him to call it there, but Omar doesn’t dive.”
So the Dynamo were left unsurprised, but still disappointed at Salazar's controversial non-call.
“I definitely think it’s a PK,” Cummings said. “[Some] say that somewhere else on the field you get that call, but if you’re in the box you don’t get that call. I don’t know if it’s for me to say, but for me, that’s a PK.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.