In the 51st minute of the MLS Cup Final, Kelyn Rowe dispossessed Robbie Rogers and then passed the ball to Lee Nguyen. The MVP candidate motored towards goal before being knocked to the ground by Juninho. Nguyen protested along with the traveling fans but referee Mark Geiger kept silent. No penalty kick for the New England Revolution.
Considering championship games are often decided by single moments, the no-call was significant. In fact, Gyasi Zardes scored the opening goal only a minute later.
The Juninho tackle was a topic of conversation after the game with head coach Jay Heaps making his opinion clear.
"To be honest with you, I really thought that was a penalty" Heaps stated.
Heaps and his team are valid in being upset about the play. Juninho's tackle was made in desperation as the LA Galaxy midfielder was required to make a frantic dash back to try to stop Nguyen. With the highest scoring pure midfielder in MLS history preparing a shot, Juninho applied enough force to unbalance Nguyen. It certainly could have been called as a penalty.
Granted, it's a hard call for the referee to make. The MLS Cup is the pinnacle of the American soccer league and it should ideally be decided by the two teams on the field. Geiger was probably going to avoid pointing to the spot unless there was an overly egregious play.
That said, the controversy could have been avoided if Nguyen was quicker to shoot. Scoring opportunities are rare against a solid defensive team like the Galaxy. With space in the box, Nguyen could have fired a shot, which wouldn't have been a bad idea considering his form this season.
Was the play a penalty or not? Let us know by voting in the poll below or leaving a comment.