TORONTO – Toronto FC lost its fourth game of the season, and third in a row, dropping a 2-1 result on Saturday to the New England Revolution in a match that TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen chalks up to equal parts bad luck and strange officiating decisions.
Nelsen commended his players on their performance, saying he was pleased with the way his team played. But when asked what needs to change, Nelsen believes it’s a matter of growing as a squad.
“I think we have to learn how to win at TFC,” Nelsen told reporters after the match. “It seems like, if we concede on our home field, it seems to be the worst thing that ever happened. We just have to get a bit more confidence at home. If something sets us back, so be it. We need to keep playing.”
This game marked the return of Jermain Defoe from injury, and while the English forward said he was tired after the game, he told MLSsoccer.com he felt alright, but frustrated at the result.
“Overall, we felt like the better team, especially in the second half,” Defoe said. “They didn’t really have any good chances. I thought we were the better side in the second half. Then they get the penalty and you’re chasing the game, trying to get back into it. It’s difficult.”
Tied 1-1 in the 82nd minute, Toronto FC conceded a penalty, which gave New England the 2-1 lead and the full three points.
The penalty came after a controversial decision from referee Mark Geiger, who forced the retake of a Revolution corner kick after Toronto FC had already cleared the first corner attempt.
The assistant referee had indicated the ball was not within the corner arc on the first corner kick, leading to the do-over. TFC only partially cleared the Revs' second corner kick, and play eventually resulted in a hand ball in the box by Doneil Henry as he tried to block a Patrick Mullins shot. Revolution playmaker Lee Nguyen converted the resulting penalty into the right corner, forcing TFC goalkeeper Julio Cesar the wrong way.
“It was a retaken corner kick, which I’ve never seen in my life as well, by the way,” Nelsen said. “If the linesman’s right beside the ball, all the best linesmen in the world, as you’ve seen on TV many a times, just step in front and don’t let the guy take it. For some reason, he waved his flag. I’m not using it as an excuse, but I’ve just never seen it before, and then they score from the next corner.”
“I’ve never, ever seen that before,” Defoe said, echoing his coach’s frustration. “I was quite baffled, to be honest. I didn’t understand what was going on. It was a strange decision, I couldn’t understand it.”
When contacted by MLSsoccer.com on Saturday afternoon, Professional Referee Organization chief Peter Walton backed the officiating crew that "they did the right thing not allowing that kick to stand if it was taken contrary to the law."
"The assistant is just pointing to the ball to tell the kicker [Chris Tierney] that the ball is not positioned correctly," Walton told MLSsoccer.com. "And the assistant has very little time to step in even if he thought about stepping in."
“We asked the referee why, and at that point, he doesn’t have a reason,” said TFC midlfielder Michael Bradley. “All he can say is the linesman on the far side wanted it retaken.
“At the end, you give up a penalty," Bradley continued. "And all of a sudden, you lose a game, that, in reality, you should never lose.”
Armen Bedakian covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com