By CLIFF STARKEY
WASHINGTON- It didn’t take long for referee Andres Pfefferkorn to thrust himself into the middle of the ‘replacement ref’ headache that MLS had been seeking to avoid. However, unlike many fans at RFK Stadium, Coach Ben Olsen and his players are not pinning Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew on Pfefferkorn’s whistle.
As a non-threatening Columbus corner kick sailed above players in the box, Michael Parkhurst was clipped by Perry Kitchen as both ran after the overpowered cross. Kitchen fell to his knees, and Pfefferkorn quickly pointed to the spot, to the disdain of a very vocal 14,000-strong United fanbase.
“My view is the same as everybody else’s view,” Olsen said of the call. “But I don’t want to put it on the referee tonight. This is a league-referee issue that’s a reality in professional sports. But you just hope you’re not on the wrong end of a call. Unfortunately, the reality is I think we were on the wrong end of that. That was not the reason we lost the game. It didn’t help, but I give credit to Columbus on the night.”
Kitchen couldn’t help but to feel aggrieved, but like his coach, was quick to chalk it up to the nature of the game, not of the official.
“I definitely had contact with him, but saying that, I think it was a bad call. I think there’s definitely been worse that haven’t been called—especially since the ball was five yards away, but that’s what he saw. We’re going to have to get used to that. Calls don’t always go your way.”
Team captain Bobby Boswell also felt the call was harsh, but didn’t see the goal as the end of the game.
“It’s one of those things. Sometimes calls are going to go against you. It definitely didn’t help us, but I still thought we had a chance to get back into the game.”
While the locker room had an understandably somber atmosphere following the loss, United remain upbeat about the season.
“It’s a long season,” Olsen said. “I still believe in this crew. This group will be fine.”
“Such is life,” Boswell said. “We’ll react accordingly.”