Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen asks for consistent officiating after loss to Real Salt Lake

TORONTO – In many ways, Toronto FC’s loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon represented something of a microcosm for TFC’s season to date.

Outside of a recent three-game unbeaten streak, Nelsen has seen his side drop points all season long for a multitude of reasons that include an inability to finish, inexperienced players making mistakes and questionable decisions by perceived inexperienced referees.

The latter was at the forefront after Toronto's 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Even though 20-year-old TFC defender Doneil Henry was sent off because of a rash response to an opposition foul and Toronto failed to put away a number of excellent scoring chances, Reds head coach Ryan Nelsen seemed most interested in discussing another instance of what he characterized as poor decision-making by a match official after the game.

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“In all honesty, I thought our performance was probably not as good as it has been in our last three or four games,” Nelsen told reporters at his post-match press conference. “In saying that, we had a stone-cold penalty and I was astonished why the referee did not give it.”

On a day on which TFC could in many ways be classified as the architects of their own demise, Nelsen saw the decision by referee Chris Penso not to call a penalty on Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers for fouling Jeremy Brockie inside the penalty area as a genuine game changer.

“In all honesty, I don’t think the referee had one of his best games,” Nelsen said of Penso, who was officiating his 40th career MLS match. “It’s a very difficult job, but what I get frustrated about is if you don’t give a penalty on that play, then you have to give Brockie a card for diving. It is as simple as that.

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In recent weeks both Nelsen and TFC president and GM Kevin Payne have lamented what they perceive as an unfair imbalance with respect to the number of inexperienced referees who have overseen TFC matches and delivered calls that the club feels have gone against them.

“Every single replay showed that he had been clipped and that the defender knew what he was doing,” Nelsen added. “Even if you can’t see that, then he obviously has to give Brocks a yellow card for diving. But he doesn’t even have the confidence to do that. By doing nothing it is completely the wrong call. Everybody in the stadium saw it was a stone-cold penalty.

“I wonder, with these inexperienced referees, what the outcome would be with certain other teams running in on goal,” Nelsen continued. “I’m guessing it might have been a wee bit different. I just look for consistency. That’s all I ask. I know it is a very tough job. I wouldn’t want to do it, but they get paid to do it, so they have to be under the microscope as well.” 

Steve Bottjer covers Toronto FC for