Soccer

Controversy swirls over no-call in first leg of DCU-HOU

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Controversy swirls over no-call in first leg of DCU-HOU

NBC's announcers couldn't believe what they saw, then didn't see just before the half Sunday night as the Black and Red began the first leg of their Eastern Conference Championship series in Houston.

Up 1-0 with seconds left before halftime, United forward Raphael Augusto charged to the net after flicking a ball over Dynamo defender Andre Hainault and midfielder Calen Carr. Augusto's opportunity was quickly cut short, however, when Hainault came shoulder to shoulder and hooked arms with the DCU rookie before falling to the ground.  On the way down, Hainault wrapped his legs around Augusto's for good measure and the two took a tumble that allowed goalkeeper Tally Hall to collect the ball safely.  

No whistle came from referee Ricardo Salazar.

"100 out of 100 times that's a red card," said NBC analyst Kyle Martino during the halftime broadcast.  

"Everybody in the stadium, everybody on our bench, everybody on their bench, everybody at home saw that it's a red card," said DCU head coach Ben Olsen. "It's a take down, it's a red card."

Houston would go on to score three unanswered goals in the second half, placing DCU in a two goal deficit heading into Game 2.  
 
"It should be a red card," United captain Chris Pontius echoed to reporters after the match. "We should be up a man with a free kick at the top of the 18. I don't understand how that's not a red card. That changes everything."

Salazar, however saw things differently.

"Based on my angle there was contact by both players and therefore, no offense was identified," Salazar said in an interview Sunday night.  The head referee went on to explain that he would not have issued a red card because of the other defensive players in the area who nullified a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Also on hand Sunday night and weighing in on the issue for MLSsoccer.com, general manager of the professional Referees Organization Peter Walton.

"From the angle I saw in the stadium I thought it was a foul," said Walton. "I would've expected a yellow card. Looking at it in real time, I thought the tracking defender [Houston's Luiz Camargo] could have influenced the outcome of that particular play and the benefit of the doubt would go to the defending team in a situation of a denial of a goal scoring opportunity."

Check out the replay below and tell us what you think. Should there have been a whistle? Red card? Would it have changed the game as Pontius said?   

Game Preview: Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns at Audi Field

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USA Today Sports Images

Game Preview: Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns at Audi Field

The Washington Spirit, one of nine teams in the National Women's Soccer League, will pay a visit to Audi Field later this summer.

The game versus the Portland Thorns FC is scheduled for August 25 at 8 pm. Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster and start at $31, but will also be available at the door. 

If you're looking for where to watch the Spirit take on the Thorns from the comfort of your own couch, the game will be broadcast on ESPNews starting at 7:38 pm. Dalen Cuff is set to host the pregame show, with USA Women's National Team alumnus Aly Wagner commentating alongside Jenn Hildreth, in her second season of NWSL coverage.

Considering the recent addition of the legendary Wayne Rooney and their move to the new facility, DC United has a lot to celebrate.

Audi Field, which opened in Washington D.C.'s Buzzard Point on July 9, seats 20,000 spectators. For DC United, who previously played at RFK Stadium, the capacity is a step down from the almost 46,000 seats at RFK. But for the Spirit, who call Germantown's Maryland Soccerplex their home, the audience will hopefully far outnumber the Plex's usual 3,000 to 4,000 spectators.

The Spirit have struggled this season, with an unusually high amound of draws and more losses than wins. Though fan favorite and star forward Mallory Pugh is still sidelined with a PCL sprain, the team hopes to improve their ability to close one-goal deficits and gain a sustained offensive advantage. 

Aside from the Audi Field game, the Spirit will host two more home games this season. Utah Royals FC will visit the Soccerplex on Wednesday, August 22, and Sky Blue FC will close out the Spirit's home season on Saturday, September 1. Tickets for either game at their usual field can be purchased through the Washington Spirit's website or upon entry. 

If you haven't paid attention to women's soccer since the USWNT's 2015 World Cup victory, no worries. There's no better time than the present to support women's pro sports. Regardless of the end result, Portland vs. Washington will be a great match-up to watch, and the event has already made DC sports history.

MORE DC SPORTS NEWS:

Wayne Rooney stuns D.C. soccer fans with surprise appearance during World Cup viewing

Wayne Rooney stuns D.C. soccer fans with surprise appearance during World Cup viewing

Washington Dulles International Airport was flooded by soccer fans alike Thursday afternoon awaiting the arrival of one specific person inside the international arrivals terminal: England's all-time goalscorer Wayne Rooney. 

Over 100 fans packed the halls as the 32-year-old made his way out of the airport while posing for pictures and signing autographs. 

Rooney penned a two-and-a-half year guaranteed contract worth about $13 million, which makes him the highest-paid player in D.C. United history. 

He officially becomes available to play for the club beginning July 10, after the transfer window opens. This means his first game could potentially be against Vancouver inside the brand new Audi Field July 10. 

After greeting fans at the airport, Rooney and his camp piled into two blacks SUVs en route to Northeast D.C. 

Little did World Cup fans taking in the England-Belgium match at Wunder Garten know that they were about to be surprised by Wayne Rooney himself. 

In an appearance that lasted just over seven minutes and included a slew of selfies, short conversations and one television interview, Rooney's presence dazzled fans and left others stunned. 

One England native who is now a D.C. resident told me: "We grew up watching him (Rooney) score in the World Cup and that was really important to us. It's hard to believe he just walked through here."

As you would imagine, management at Wunder Garten was thrilled, too.  

"It was great for us because it put us on the map. For someone as famous as Wayne Rooney to come through our establishment, shake hands and hang out, that means a lot. We loved having him here and would love to have him back," said Michael Keller, a member of the bar's management staff. 

 The Englishman will have his hands full as he attempts to put D.C. United back on the map this season. 

Follow Rooney on Twitter and Instagram @WayneRooney.