TFC coach Nelsen expects fine over comments

Ryan Nelsen was all laughs while speaking to the media when asked about the comments made by him and the players regarding the MLS referees, which he admitted might cost him.

TORONTO – It remains to be seen if Toronto FC coach Ryan Nelsen and midfielder Michael Bradley will be fined by Major League Soccer for their post-match comments following the club’s weekend loss to Sporting Kansas City.

But Nelsen expects he’ll have to get his chequebook out.

“My comments? I thought I was pretty good, wasn’t I? I’m probably going to get hit,” Nelsen told reporters after Tuesday’s practice.

“I’ve heard rumours that a few of the boys might have lost their cool, and I can’t really blame them to tell you the truth.”

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The Reds dropped a 2-1 decision at BMO Field on Saturday to Sporting Kansas City, a game that saw referee Ted Unkel issue eight yellow cards (five to Toronto) and send off Kansas City captain Matt Besler in the 75th minute.

Nelsen was upset over a non-call in the 23rd minute when Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin appeared to clip TFC forward Gilberto’s leg from behind. Unkel could have issued a red card if he thought Collin prevented a clear scoring chance. Instead, he waved play on.

“Collin should have been sent off. An under-12 ref could have (spotted) that one. That’s pretty basic,” Nelsen said after the game. “It seemed so obvious—it’s not even a question.”

Then in the second half, Kansas City’s Igor Juliao yanked down TFC’s Dominic Oduro who was streaking down the right side. Unkel brandished a yellow, but Nelsen felt it should have been a straight red as it prevented an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

Bradley also had hard words for the officials after the game.

“It’s by no means an excuse, it was the same for both teams, but the referee was absolutely awful,” Bradley said. “The people at the MLS (head) office in New York, when they talk about wanting to improve the league, the first thing that needs to be improved is the refereeing, bottom line.

“That shouldn’t come across as sour grapes because that’s just the reality. And it was bad for both teams and I’m sure they’re sitting in their locker-room saying the same thing to themselves. But they’ve got three points with them and that certainly makes it a little easier to swallow.”

Club top scorer Jermain Defoe, who was suspended for Saturday’s tilt, was far more philosophical.

“Sometimes little details like that can change the game but it wasn’t meant to be,” Defoe said Tuesday.

A former defender who spent the bulk of his playing career in the English Premier League, Nelsen believes MLS officials sometimes miss out on “the intricacies of the game” when calling a match because they lack experience and haven’t come up through a developmental system.

“Overseas, (referees) get experience in the lower leagues … they grow up and they get a feel for the game,” Nelsen offered. “(Here), they’re learning the game as they’re officiating at the top level.”

He later added: “They’re trying to get better and better. I take my hat off to them when I know they’re trying to get better. You can’t ask for anything more from them.”

Nelsen insists he and his players have put Saturday behind them and are now focused on Wednesday’s road game against D.C. United, who TFC trails for second place in the Eastern Conference by eight points.

“We’ve moved on and we’re looking forward to DC,” Nelsen stated.

The message appears to have sunk in.

“You can’t focus on referees and what decisions their making,” rookie defender Nick Hagglund said.

“They’re reffing for both teams. You just have to deal with it, and keep pushing forward and be confident in what the team stands for and how we play—focus on that more than focusing on the referees.”

Major League Soccer did not immediately respond to Sportnet’s email seeking confirmation about whether the league’s disciplinary committee is considering taking action against Nelsen and Bradley.

Bradley was not made available to speak to local media after Tuesday’s practice.

NOTES: The D.C. United contest is the first of a four-game road trip for Toronto, who visits Montreal (Aug. 2), Columbus (Aug. 9) and Kansas City (Aug. 16)… For Wednesday’s game, TFC will be without defenders Doneil Henry (suspended), Steven Caldwell (quad tear) and Mark Bloom (MCL strain)…

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