Tampa Bay Mutiny goalkeeper Mark Dougherty was furious, and television replays appeared to back him after Thursday night's Major League Soccer game against the Columbus Crew.
The Crew's Peter Marino was credited with a goal in the 16th minute that looked as if was punched in with the forward's left hand. It gave Columbus a 1-0 victory, snapping the Crew's five-game losing streak.
"I saw Peter Marino break the rules of the game," Dougherty said. "It's a credit to him, because he did what it took to score a goal. As for the refs, it was the most blatant disregard for the proper call as I've ever seen."
The goal appeared to affect the mental state of the Mutiny (11-8). Its technical game plan, drawn up by coach Thomas Rongen, was to help offset the fact that Tampa Bay was without four of its top players, who were either serving suspensions or injured.
"That call was inexcusable, and I'm not one to blame referees," Rongen said. "We became a little frustrated after that, and this was our third game in eight days."
Tampa Bay received five yellow cards. Two were issued to Adam Frye, whose ejection forced the Mutiny to play the final 25 minutes a man short.
Dougherty said it was Columbus that should have been forced to play with 10 players.
"They got a goal, and he (Marino) should have been sent off with a red card and suspended for the next game," Dougherty said. "The refs in this league have to wake up. "
"All I know is I took a cross from Billy Thompson closer than the 6-yard box," Marino said. "I got clobbered on the side of the head. I won't know until I see the replay, but a goal is a goal."
Columbus, which had lost six straight games at Ohio Stadium, got a shutout from goalie Pat Harrington, who signed with the Crew Thursday. He recorded his third shutout of the season. He played eight games earlier this season with the Kansas City Wiz; one of the games was a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay.
Harrington had only to make one save as the Mutiny managed just three shots.
Rongen attributed that to the absence of four players, including Carlos Valderrama, nursing a left hamstring injury.
"We missed the great passing of Valderrama," Rongen said. "We were not able to create a lot of chances."
Defensive midfielder Martin Vasquez, forward Giuseppe Galderisi and defender Steve Pittman also sat out.
Crew coach Timo Liekoski said the Mutiny absences definitely altered the style of the play.
"It made a big impact, and I think the game would have had more of a flow," he said. "But they gave a great effort without them."