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War of words erupts in contentious series with Columbus, D.C. United.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Wednesday, November 10, 1999) -- The War of Words has erupted in the aftermath of the Columbus Crew's second-game Eastern Conference triumph against D.C. United.

It was a match in which the roles were reversed, with the normally placid Crew called for 30 fouls and three yellow cards, and with the normally aggressive D.C. United getting 15 fouls and one yellow card.

Midfielder Marco Etcheverry of D.C. United: "The referee (Brian Hall) was terrible. I did not believe it."

Forward Stern John of Columbus: "D.C. got a taste of their own medicine. All year they're accustomed to beating people, giving cheap shots. We played the way they're accustomed to. They couldn't handle it."

Defender Jeff Agoos of D.C. United: "Columbus was very physical, perhaps too physical for the referee to keep up with . . . We weren't ready to come out and battle."

Midfielder Robert Warzycha of Columbus: "We figured out when you pressure D.C., they make mistakes, too. . . Every (previous) time, we gave them too much space and too much room for their players."

More interesting, perhaps, were the less-inflammatory comments. Defender Eddie Pope of D.C. United: "It was our lack of determination. We didn't have the fire we normally have."

Columbus coach Tom Fitzgerald (on the criticism of the Crew's play): "There's always gamesmanship. D.C. is famous for its gamesmanship."

Most observers think Hall should have given a yellow card to John for a rough early tackle on Diego Sonora - he was out of position due to a quick change of ball possession -- and that matters escalated during the rest of the game.

MLS reverses officials for the third games, with Hall going to the Western Conference for Galaxy-Burn, and Ricardo Valenzuela moving East to Washington for the Eastern Conference match Saturday afternoon. He is regarded as one of the leading lights among MLS referees. "I was very pleased with his work in the second Burn-Galaxy game,'' vice president for game operations Joe Machnik said.

Worst-case scenario for Major League Soccer? The Dallas Burn beats the Los Angeles Galaxy in Western Conference title game tomorrow night, and star striker Ariel Graziani picks up a yellow card, making him ineligible for the MLS Cup '99 championship game. He already has two cautions in the playoffs, and a third knocks him out one game.

Teammate Jorge Rodriguez, a defender, also has two yellow cards, as does reserve Geoff Aunger of D.C. United and three Columbus Crew defenders - John DeBrito, Mike Clark and Todd Yeagley.

The Burn is missing two starters for the Galaxy game with too many accumulated caution points -- defender Eric Dade and midfielder Sergi Daniv.

Los Angeles is upset at the timing sequence in the shootout loss to Dallas, saying Jorge Rodriguez took too long - 5.23 seconds by some estimates -- in getting off his fifth-round tying shot . The time limit is five seconds.

Machnik reviewed the play on videotape, and while conceding a mistake was made, said he does not know whether the five-second period was exceeded. The clock showed .38 second left when the shot was taken. He said there was a delay in starting the clock, but how much is the question.

In addition Machnik said there is a .18 second "delay'' at the start of any shootout attempt, and a similar .18 second ''delay'' at the end. "The clock is supposed to start when the assistant referee (Robert Fereday), after the whistle, lowers his flag to the lowest point and the timekeeper (Greg Barkey) begins the clock. There's a built-in (average) .18 second delay . . . Then there's the same (average) delay at the end of the sequence, between the shot, and the stopping of the clock."

Machnik, while admitting the timekeeper was slow in starting the clock, doesn't know how much time was lost. "I cannot determine it," he said.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at

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