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Brilliant tactics in Houston, or just a choppy field taking hold?

Nov 5, 2012, 4:47 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v Seattle Sounders Getty Images

Events at BBVA Compass Stadium yesterday provided an interesting study in viewpoint, cause and effect.

From the Sporting Kansas City side, the Dynamo won because they made more plays, and because they shrewdly exploited referee Edvin Jurisevic’s inability to get his arms around the Dynamo’s rather cynical tactics.

SKC manager Peter Vermes more or less complimented Houston for their approach. In order to keep his visitors from finding a rhythm, in order to keep SKC from using the extra energy of an extended rest and run in behind the Dynamo defenders, Houston simply fouled in advanced places on the field.

That habitually allowed Houston to get 10 or 11 men behind the ball.

It should be stressed that Vermes wasn’t making excuses. He said straight out that Houston was the better side (“They got the ‘first half.’ They deserved it.”), but did point out the fouling, and that Jurisevic never got hold of the situation.

“At some point, the referee has got to step in and give a card, and that never happened,” Vermes said.

(MORE: Drilling down on the Dynamo’s 2-0 win)

But before we get into a conversation about fouling, naiveté from the men in the middle and whether this is an overly cynical tactic, hear what Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear had to say about it. The highly respected Houston coach said there were no brilliant tactics at work here:

“By no means are we looking to go foul,” he said. “And to be honest, we talked about not fouling them at halftime, because it gives them opportunities where Graham Zusi can be dangerous.”

So, where is the real truth here? As with so many things, somewhere in the middle, most likely.

The field was terrible. It’s small to begin with (70 yards wide). It had been chopped up by a football game the day before. And it’s past growing season at BBVA Compass Stadium. Just as Sporting KC had some trouble with a brand new field last year, Houston’s is highly imperfect this year.

The net out is a hard, choppy field, which makes a “pretty” game fairly impossible to facilitate. Instead, you get a game with lots of 50-50 challenges, a lot of scrapping for second balls and a more than a few collisions. And fouls.

Kinnear certainly did cop to this part:

“It was no game for shy players,” he said.

  1. dreadpirate82 - Nov 5, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    The field was ugly with all those lines, but it didn’t seem to be too big of a factor. Houston’s dominance was. I got tired of the constant shoves in the back Sapong kept taking and assumed a card would come eventually. Oh well. I can’t imagine any of my fellow SKC supporters would blame the official for this result, though. That was simply a butt-whooping. I’ll be working on exercises to strengthen my throat for 90 (120?) minutes of yelling on Wednesday.

    Speaking of Jurisevic, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a ref smile more than that guy did yesterday.

  2. geojock - Nov 5, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    I cant stand SKC and their antics. I have seen it all year. They are much worse than the San Jose crew. They play a high hacking pressure all game then dive with any touch and then swarm the ref and complain. They remind me of the San Antonio Spurs. The ref fell for their antics plenty this game, but not as bad as i have seen in the past; then they have the nerve to cry about it after the game?

    “At some point, the referee has got to step in and give a card, and that never happened,” Vermes said. –Hey Peter what did you think of Carr’s card? Was that not good enough for you? It was a joke.

    There was a common theme. KC player touches the ground = foul. KC player touches ground and screams in pain = foul and card.

    Hack, Dive, Cry; We ARE Sporting KC!

  3. term3186 - Nov 5, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    It was a tough, physical game to be sure. I haven’t bothered watching too many replays, but on the live viewing it looked like SKC players were going down far far too easily at the first bit of contact. That bit of acting that got Carr a completely undeserved yellow card was disgraceful. Not to mention that Houston was only whistled for 4 more fouls than SKC.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 5, 2012 at 6:21 PM

      “acting” might be a bit harsh. I think Kamara got his knee twisted a little, but it certainly wasn’t a yellow card. It was just two players coming together on the ball at the precise same moment. (afterward, in the locker room, houston players said privately that Jurisevic had called “goal kick” initially, then went back and issued the yellow card on the AR’s advice.

      • term3186 - Nov 5, 2012 at 6:27 PM

        Oh that’s a wonderful bit of intelligence. Thanks for that. It looked like the AR simply signaled for a GK and the ref ran over from 30 yards away and issued the card. While I still think the call was wrong, it makes me feel quite a bit better about the process. All in all i think the center did a fine job.

  4. donjuego - Nov 6, 2012 at 1:59 AM

    Vermes, who has done a great job and is a great coach, is just working the refs here trying to get an advantage. He is doing it by lying.

    Fact: SKC does exactly what Vermes accused the Dynamo of and have done so all year. SKC go hard at every ball in MF and get the player if they don’t get the ball. Fouls don’t bother them because they need time to get their players back behind the ball, since they play so high. That the media just repeat his lies with little critical evaluation is disappointing, is why it works, and is why he does it.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 6, 2012 at 5:48 AM

      This. Exactly. They are one of the league’s best at the tactical fouling.

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