ROSEMONT, ILL., JULY 11 -- Just up the street from where the Washington Commandos suffered their third Arena Football League defeat, there was a party going on.

Following the Chicago Bruisers' 37-36 defeat of Washington, players, friends and others involved with the new league were dancing and drinking away at the hotel where both teams were staying.

Even some Commandos were there, and they also seemed to be having a good time. That is, especially considering that they had just fallen into a tie for last place with a 1-3 record and had put a severe dent in any hopes for making it to Arenabowl I, the championship game to be played Aug. 1 between the two best of the league's four teams.

But when Commandos Coach Bob Harrison entered an elevator to join the party, he made it clear he was not having fun. In fact, he was almost livid.

He was complaining about referees.

Saying that the Commandos "got some bad breaks" on calls during his team's last-minute loss to Chicago, Harrison referred, in particular, to a called-back touchdown pass to Dwayne Dixon.

Referee Dan Williams said Dixon was an ineligible receiver, and the Commandos were forced to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Dale Castro that gave them a 36-34 lead with 2:22 left in the game. Chicago's Nick Mike-Mayer kicked a 35-yard field goal with 45 seconds left, and the Commandos failed to complete any of four passes on their final drive.

On the penalty, both Dixon and Lenny Taylor lined up on the line of scrimmage at the 10-yard line before Dixon caught Rich Ingold's pass in the corner of the end zone. Williams made the call after the play was over, infuriating the Commandos.

"All of my career, I've never seen anything like that," Taylor said. "We threw the ball, caught it, the guy spikes the ball and then he throws the flag."

Said Ingold, "I don't understand what the hell they were doing."

Williams said he made the call because if both wide receivers are on the line of scrimmage, the inside man (Dixon) is not eligible. But Williams also said that he discovered he may have erred in making the call.

"I spoke with {officiating coordinator} Jack Pittges, and he said, 'Technically you're right, but it doesn't have to be done,' " Williams said. "So I said, 'Okay, I won't call it again.' I've got to learn from that."

But Harrison and his players know there was much more to the loss than the penalty. There were missed conversions, turnovers, penalties and dropped passes.

"It's either one thing or another and it hurts," lineman Sean McInerney said. "We just don't come out and do it as a team. I think we're not playing our game."

Of the problems, a memorable one was the failed drive with 45 seconds left. Two passes to Taylor and one to Dixon failed before Ingold drilled the fourth-down pass into the turf before it reached Taylor.

There were two failed conversions by Castro that could have made a difference, but Harrison said Castro was playing with a pulled groin muscle.

There was Ingold's sub-par performance. He completed 30 of 49 passes but was not sharp much of the night and threw an interception to Steve Finch that Finch returned 36 yards for a touchdown to give Chicago a 24-23 halftime lead.

There also was Chicago's possible use of an illegal zone defense. Although Chicago Coach Ray Jauch denied using one, Taylor and Dixon said otherwise.

"All I know is that my man was playing farther back than usual," Taylor said. "He was off me about 12 yards instead of eight or nine, especially toward the end of the game. If he's there, you can't run the regular route" . . .