TORONTO – Once again, Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City has produced a handful of goals, a lot of positive play – the kind of play TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said gave the game a playoff flavor – and a controversial officiating performance.
Speaking to reporters via a translator after Toronto's 2-1 loss to Sporting, Brazilian forward Gilberto vented his frustration with the refereeing after being the subject of the most controversial call of the night.
“Right from the get-go, I was having some bad luck with the referees, getting some calls,” Gilberto said. “I was fouled early on just outside the box on a play there where I thought I should have got a call. I feel like maybe the referee was having trouble giving me calls.”
“Maybe it’s because they want me to learn how to play in the MLS and how the style of the league is,” Gilberto continued. “However, I want them to know that I’m not going to just roll over. I’m going to play my game, I’m going to play strong, I’m going to play hard and I’m not going to be someone who’s going to be a pushover. I want to be treated fairly just like any other player.”
Gilberto’s frustration came after a controversial non-call early in the first half. He picked up a pass and pushed the ball past Aurelien Collin, who was the last defender, only to go down under pressure from the Frenchman. However, referee Ted Unkel waved the play on, declining to whistle for a foul on either player.
“I’m upset because I was all alone there on that play,” Gilberto said. “The guy took me down. It should have been a call; it should have been a card. If you look at my history in Brazil, when I play, I’m not someone that dives; I’m not someone that takes cheap fouls. I only go down when I get hit or I slip. So for me, going forward, I’m going to have to play a little harder then, and show people that I’ve come here to play.”
The decision was one of many much-debated calls and non-calls from Unkel, who doled out numerous yellow cards, including two that resulted in a red to Matt Besler.
“I was wondering, ‘what’s going on here?’” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen said. “The Gilberto one seems so obvious. It’s not even a question. You tell them to forget about all the decisions and the ridiculous yellow cards and try and focus on the game but they’re human.”
But, despite being up a man for the last 15 minutes, Toronto FC just could not find an equalizer, though not for a lack of trying, as Jackson, Michael Bradley, Dominic Oduro, Nick Hagglund and Dwayne De Rosario all came close to scoring.
“We had all the obvious chances to win the game and we didn’t do it,” Nelsen added, before explaining that his side also lost a bit of hardness in conceding two “soft” goals.
“We haven’t got our balance right yet in that midfield,” Nelsen said. “On those two goals, we were spectators in a time when we had to be urgent, have intensity and focus. We just hoped somebody would do their job. That was unfortunate.”