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Philadelphia Union end Houston Dynamo home unbeaten streak in controversial fashion

Jul 25, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Dynamo defender Adolfo Machado (3) and Philadelphia Union midfielder Fabian Herbers (14) battle for the ball during the second half at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON – The Philadelphia Union scored twice in the second half after going up a man and ended the Houston Dynamo’s home unbeaten streak with a 3-1 victory.

But the game was essentially over at the 58th minute when referee Joseph Dickerson showed Dynamo midfielder Tomas Martinez a straight-red card. 

After trading goals in the first half, Houston looked like the more dangerous side in the second half. They got the ball to Quioto on the left wing and the Honduran international picked out Martinez, who was running toward the near post. The Union’s Auston Trusty got to it first, and Martinez stepped on Trusty’s foot inadvertently in the process of going for the ball.

The ref, however, saw things differently. After checking the replay, referee Joseph Dickerson gave Martinez a straight red card. The announced crowd of 13,094 let the referee have it and kept on him the remainder of the game. 

Five minutes after the final whistle, which the Union won 3-1, Pro Soccer USA submitted three questions to the referee regarding the game. Protocol mandates that the referee has 15 minutes to review the questions and prepare for an in-person interview with the reporter who submitted the questions.

Thirty minutes after receiving the questions, fourth official Jose Carlos Rivero — not the referee — came out of the referee locker room with handwritten answers. After relaying to him that the referee needs to answer the questions verbally in-person, he retreated to the locker room. 

But instead of the referee coming out to answer the questions, the fourth official reappeared and stated that he would read the answers off a sheet of paper.

The questions and answers were as follows:

Q: On the red card, what did you see to constitute going to the VAR?

A: “VAR saw a clear and obvious error in the non-giving of a red card and recommended a review. See the details in question No. 2.”

Q: After checking with VAR, why did you decide on a straight red card as opposed to a cautionary yellow card?

A: “The red card was issued for a serious foul play for endangering the safety of the opponent.”

Q: On the (first) two Union goals, it was debatable if the player was onside. Why wasn’t VAR used to verify if the player was onside?

A: “VAR checked both goals and it was determined that there was no clear and obvious error.”

Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera said no one on the field knew what was going on when the ref when to VAR. 

“Obviously, from the beginning of the game, the referee was nervous. He’s a referee without experience, but the responsibility is not his. The responsibility is who put him there. Howard Webb put him there. It’s his responsibility,” Cabrera said, calling out Webb, the manager of Video Assistant Referee operations and general manager of the Professional Referee Organization.

Cabrera wasn’t the only one with words to share about the referee. Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren said the job the referee did in the match left him with a bad taste in his mouth. 

Mauro Manotas, who notched his 11th goal of the season to top his tally from last season, said the referee’s decision cost the team three points. 

“We win it for sure,” Manotas said, referring to if Martinez wasn’t sent off. “But winning in this league with 10 players is very difficult.”

Houston (7-7-6, 27 points) was indeed on the front foot and the Dynamo were pressing to get the second goal before the ejection.

The Union took advantage of being a man up. In the 70th minute, Borek Dockal slipped a pass to Cory Burke, who found himself in the Dynamo backline. Burke drew Dynamo ‘keeper Joe Willis out and finished by sending the ball through Willis’ legs.

The Union (8-10-3, 27 points) added a third goal in the 96th minute on a penalty to put the game away for good. 

Houston now will try to forget Wednesday’s incident and loss to recharge for a bout against Western Conference foe Portland on Saturday. 

“Now we need to be professionals and think about tomorrow,” Cabrera said. “And forget about today, forget about the referee, forget that VAR expelled Tomas Martinez and think about the upcoming match against Portland.”

Watch: Controversial red card reduces Houston Dynamo to 10 men vs. Philadelphia

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