TORONTO – While most Toronto FC supporters are likely disheartened by the fact that their side conceded yet another very late goal in a 1-1 home draw with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening, TFC manager Ryan Nelsen continued to emphasize the positives at his post-match press conference.
“There was only one team in the game for the first 35 minutes,” Nelsen said. “Then when we were down to 10 men, after their 'keeper pushed, shoved and virtually assaulted one of our players, we got a ridiculously soft sending off and we still looked really good. I am really proud of the guys.”
Union forward Jack McInerney scored his league leading 10th goal of the season in the 90th minute and broke the collective hearts of Nelsen, his players and TFC supporters. However, the TFC gaffer still went to pains to again emphasize that his team is showing plenty of signs of progress even though the team’s performances are not resulting in victories.
FULL MATCH RECAP: Toronto with another late collapse
“You can’t fault the players as they were absolutely fantastic,” Nelsen added. “Two years ago Toronto lost 6-2 at home against Philadelphia. This year we draw while playing with 10 men for 55 minutes and you want me to have a go at the players?
“If we had had 11 men with the way the guys played, it wouldn’t have been 1-0,” Nelsen added. “It would have been 2-0 or 3-0 and it would have been very comfortable [in the final minutes]."
While happy with the performance delivered by his players under difficult circumstances, Nelsen was not as positive when asked about the performance of the referee.
“I’m obviously biased, but it was an extremely soft sending off,” Nelsen said. “Their goalkeeper pushed and shoved one of our players and started the whole thing. That’s a sending off. If you are going to go letter of the law, like he did for the two yellow cards that Doneil [Henry] got, then the letter of the law is that their keeper should have been sent off.”
During Toronto’s current winless streak, both Nelsen and Toronto FC president and GM Kevin Payne have expressed their dissatisfaction with many of the decisions made by referees they have characterized as inexperienced -- Saturday's referee, Geoff Gamble, officiated his 22nd MLS match -- and the TFC manager expressed that train of thought on Saturday.
“We always seem to get the inexperienced referees," Nelsen said. "That’s life and somebody has to get them, but they keep making inexperienced decisions and we always seem to be on the end of them.
“If you are going to be so strict and not have the common sense to say to Doneil on that second yellow card ‘You are on really thin ice there and next time I will give you one’. The good referees do that. They say, ‘Come on, be careful here’. But he went by the letter of the law, as inexperienced ones do, and he sent him off.”
Steve Bottjer covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.