Mar 30, 2014, 1:19 AM EDT
This the scenario that UEFA wanted addressed, though soccer’s law makers rejected the appeal. Triple punishment, where a denial of a goal scoring opportunity leads to a red card and a penalty, came into play on Saturday night in Seattle, with Djimi Traoré’s challenge on Dominic Oduro turning the match at CenturyLink Field. Up 1-0 when the foul was committed in the 58th minute, Seattle went on to lose, 2-1, helping Columbus to a historic 3-0-0 start.
On a ball headed over the defense by Columbus midfielder Bernardo Añor, Oduro got between Traoré and Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. As Traoré attempts to play the ball with his left foot, he makes contact with Oduro, sending him to the ground just outside the six-yard box. Moments later, Allen Chapman was flashing his red card, giving Federico Higuaín an opportunity to equalize from the spot.
Up until then, Seattle had been the much better side, using a counter attack led by Obafemi Martins to claim a first half lead – the Crew’s first deficit of the season. Though another strong night from goalkeeper Steve Clark initially kept Columbus even, a 22nd minute transition sprung by Martin left Kenny Cooper with a golden chance in the left of the area. Trying to close down the angles on a shot from just inside the box, it was too much to ask Clark to protect his entire goal. Cooper found the right side of it to make it 1-0.
Seattle had a number of chances to double their lead, Lamar Neagle’s point-blank chance later in the half the clearest. Come halftime, however, the Sounders were left hoping their form would translate to more goals in the second half, a hope that evaporated with Traoré’s dismissal.
Even with their disadvantage, however, Seattle didn’t immediately cower. During the middle of the half, there were points were the teams seemed to be on even footing, even if the Sounders began to preserve their point as full-time approached. Come stoppage time, Seattle was playing the game in their own third.
It made the final goal less surprising than it should have been, though even Justin Meram’s far post finish off a short corner in the 94th minute was enveloped in controversy. Once full-time was blown, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid confronted Chapman for allegedly distracting players in the box while allowing the corner to be taken quickly, something that could have contributed to the slow response to the Crew restart:
Usually a referee positions himself outside the 18 (-yard box) when a corner kick is taken. I rarely see referees positioned almost inside the six-yard box. So it looked to me from the outside like he was talking to our players, and if you’re talking to our players, why do you let the ball get played?
Schmid would go on to admit the obvious: His team should have done more to prevent the winner. The result’s a bitter pill to shallow, however, when your team was the better side for much of the match. Yet after Traoré’s triple punishment scenario, that all changed. Seattle was unable to overcome two controversial moments and fell for the second time at home.
For Columbus, it was the team’s worst performance of the season, yet it was also its stiffest challenge. Ultimately, the team found a way to get three points from Seattle, and while it took some breaks going their way to do so, good teams have to be able to take advantage of their opportunities. You have to collect points every way you can.
It’s the first time in franchise history the Crew have started 3-0-0. With Houston and Toronto losing on the road, Gregg Berhalter’s team is alone atop the East, with the result in Utah providing an informative contrast.
Whereas TFC crumbled in the face of its first adversity of the season, Columbus responded, stayed close, and eventually took advantage of its opportunity. As a result, the Crew are three points ahead of Toronto.
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