Metro at the Millennium: Passive offside
October 30, 2007

To say that Metro playoff history has been riddled with questionable calls is an understatement. In 1996, the penalty call on Rob Johnson with two minutes left, still cruel after all these years. In 2004, the offside goal by DC's Earnie Stewart, still annoys us to no end. And that's just the tip of the iceberg; we can go on and on through the years... But this is "Metro at the Millennium", so we discuss the questionable, cruel, annoying call from 2000: the one that reversed Adolfo Valencia's goal in Game 3 of the semifinal series against Chicago.

In 2000, MLS started using the best-of-three playoff format. And after Metro swept Dallas in the first round to win their first series ever, they were faced with the daunting task of going against Bob Bradley's Chicago, with two of the three games in the Windy City. Paul Grafer's luck ran out in Game 1, as the third-string keeper was torched by three Fire goals in a 3:0 blowout. In Game 2, Mike Ammann, still not fully healed, returned to the nets as Metro returned the favor, blanking Chicago 2:0 behind goals from Mark Chung and Adolfo Valencia. In that format, total goals didn't count, just the results, so both teams entered Game 3 on even ground.

It didn't stay even for long, as three minutes into the match, Chicago's C.J. Brown scored off a corner kick. In the 31st minute, all seemed lost when Hristo Stoitchkov made it 2:0.

But all was not lost, because Valencia was on rare form that night. Metro went down the field right after the Fire goal, and Adolfo, tied up by Brown, managed to get the shot off and past Zach Thornton to bring Metro within one. Four minutes later, the game was tied, as Valencia knocked home his own rebound.

So it was all tied in the second half, into the 63rd minute. A Metro pass up the right sideline led to a Chicago player missplaying the ball. Valencia pounced on it and was off to the races, slotting the ball home past Thornton, giving himself the hat-trick and Metro an improbable lead. But wait. That never happened.

That never happened, because right after the goal, referee Tim Weyland had a long talk with assistant Jorge Reyes, and the goal was called back. Why? An offside call seemed impossible on the play, since the Fire player touched the ball first off a Metro pass, before Adolfo pounced on it. The reason? Passive offside.

Passive offside is defined as when a player is in an offside position, but not interfering with play. While Valencia was behind the last Fire defender on the initial pass, if he did not interfere, the goal should have stood. But Weyland and Reyes saw it differently. Somehow, Valencia was judged not to be passive. The goal was called back. The teams were tied again. And two minutes from time, Ante Razov curled the ball past Ammann, and just like that, Metro's season was over.

Was it the right call? "We had a clear goal taken away from us," Tab Ramos said after the match. It's obvious that those on the Fire side of things feel otherwise. Who knows; on another night, with different officials, the goal probably stands. It just seems that throughout Metro history, we don't get many another nights. All we get is the sad reality, questionable calls or not.

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