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Harrison, N.J. • On his way into the locker room after the game, Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman looked at the gathering outside the door and asked "how many penalty kicks did y'all see? Three? Two?"

The answer, of course, was zero.

Which was precisely the problem.

The defending MLS Cup champions were not exactly pleased with referee Jair Marrufo, who denied them at least one potential penalty-kick opportunity that might have made the difference in their 0-0 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

"At least he didn't call one for them and not for us," midfielder Will Johnson said.

He could have, even RSL acknowledged that, on a pair of apparent handballs in the box. But that did not change their feeling about the most controversial play, just before halftime.

That's when New York's Roy Miller took down RSL's Alvaro Saborio just on the edge of the penalty area, and Marrufo not only denied the penalty kick but gave Miller only a yellow card for the foul.

"That's [a yellow card], if not a red card," defender Nat Borchers said. "But that's the way it is on the road."

And the way it is with Marrufo, perhaps.

Aside from being the referee who called for an unusual midgame water break during an RSL game in Houston last year, he also called two penalties against RSL in a game in Houston earlier this season, and has twice sent off defender Jamison Olave with red cards.

Marrufo also was suspended by Major League Soccer at the end of last season for poor performances.

"This ref is kind of our curse," Beckerman said. "He gets at us. He's called quite a few PKs against us, and I don't remember him giving us one." Twitter: @RSLTribune