Toronto FC shoots itself in foot vs KC

After TFC's loss to Sporting KC, Michael Bradley made no bones about his issues with the refereeing in the league, saying it needs to be improved immediately.

Here’s what happened in MLS action between Toronto FC and Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night at BMO Field, in case you missed it.

Game summary in a sentence

TFC felt victimized by what it thought were some bad decisions from the referee, but ultimately it was poor defending and a lack of finishing in front of goal was what undid the Reds in a 2-1 loss to the reigning league champions.

• Read the full match report and check out the boxscore
More: TFC expects Creavalle to push starters || KC’s Besler makes name by staying home

Main thoughts on the match

TFC its own worst enemy: Referee Ted Unkel was the centre of attention, appearing at first glance to get some vital calls wrong (more on that later). But Unkel’s spotty performance aside, Toronto, who was playing without the suspended Jermain Defoe, was the author of its downfall on this night.

The team was let down by some horrendous finishing, with Jackson being the worst culprit. The Brazilian bagged the opener in the 16th minute on a lovely finish, but he could have ended the night with four goals—he either misfired over the net or delivered a tame shot, going for placement when power was required. Dominic Oduro and Michael Bradley also spurned glorious scoring chances, and the team was a bit unlucky in hitting two posts. Had the Reds been more clinical, the game could have been essentially over at half time.

“We had all the obvious chances to win the game and we didn’t do it,” Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen offered.

Also, both goals conceded by the Reds were soft, especially the first one, where they failed to clear their lines inside the box, allowing Graham Zusi to level the score just after halftime. Then in 80th minute, with KC playing a man down, the Reds were caught ball-watching as former Red Jacob Peterson converted a pass from Dom Dwyer.

“They were two very soft goals. We haven’t got our balance right yet. … We were spectators (on both goals) in a time when he had to be urgent and our intensity had to be focused—we just hoped somebody would do their job,” Nelsen explained.

He later added: “There’s a hardness that we’ve lost, and that we need to get back.”

Ref got both big calls right: Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen held back on “going off” on the officials as best as he could in the post-match press conference. For the most part he was restrained and took responsibility for the loss, pointing to his team’s shortcomings as the reason for failing to get something out of this game.

But he did get a few shots in at the refs, especially over what he thought was blown call midway through the first half—with Toronto up 1-0, Aurelien Collin, the last man back, appeared to pull down Gilberto, thus stopping a clear scoring chance. Referee Ted Unkel didn’t see it as a foul, and let the play continue. Replays proved inconclusive, so credit Unkel for getting in right, although Nelsen didn’t see it that way.

“An under-12 ref could have (spotted) that one. That’s pretty basic,” Nelsen claimed. “It seemed so obvious—it’s not even a question.”

Then in the second half, Igor Juliao yanked down Dominic Oduro who was streaking down the right side. Unkel brandished a yellow, but Nelsen felt it should have been a straight red. Replays, though, showed that Kansas City had players retreating into the box, and that Oduro still would have had a lot of work to do, so it was debateable whether or not a clear scoring chance was denied. Again, it was an unpopular decision with Nelsen and the BMO Field faithful, but Unkel got it right.

That’s not to say Unkel wasn’t perfect on this night. He was far too quick to caution players. In total, he issued eight yellow cards in a game that was hardly chippy, and on more than one occasion he whistled proceedings dead when he should have let the attacking team have the advantage. But on the big two incidents, he made the right decisions.

An irate Gilberto: With Defoe suspended, this game was a chance for Gilberto, who has netted only twice this season, to step up and provide TFC with some goals. But it was Jackson and Dominc Oduro who were the Reds’ most dangerous attacking players on the night, while Gilberto created very little.

The Brazilian’s frustration was evident when he spoke to reporters after the game, as he was irate on the non-call on Aurelien Collin, suggesting the Unkel and his officiating crew had it in for him.

“The referee was having trouble giving me calls and maybe it’s because they want me to learn how to play in MLS, and how the style of the league is here. However, I want them to know that I’m not going to roll over. … I’m not somebody who’s going to be a pushover. I want to be treated fairly like every other player,” Gilberto stated.

He said it

“What frustrates me is that balls are going to come into the box and things are going to happen, but there were some guys who were spectators and getting into nice, comfortable positions and weren’t influencing the game,” Nelsen said about his team’s defending on both goals.

3 stars

1) Dominic Oduro: He exposed KC defender Seth Sinovic countless times down the right side with his speed and deft touch, and supplied a sublime through-ball on Jackson’s goal.
2) Graham Zusi: Showed great poise in taking his goal to tie the contest. Gave TFC’s defenders fits with his runs off the ball.
3) Jackson: Scored the opener and looked dangerous for most of the match.

Stat of the night

Head to head

Kansas City leads the all-time series against Toronto with 11 wins and five draws in 20 games… These teams will meet for the third and final time this season on Aug. 16 in Kansas City.

News and notes

Midfielder Warren Creavalle, acquired in a trade from Houston earlier this week, was an unused substitute… Toronto remains without injured captain and centre back Steven Caldwell (quad tear) and right back Mark Bloom (MCL strain)… Defender Doneil Henry picked up his fifth yellow card on Saturday, which means he’s suspended for the Reds’ next game…

Tweet of the night

What’s next?

Toronto FC embarks on a two-game road trip next week, with games against D.C. United (Wednesday) and the Montreal Impact (Saturday).

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