Toronto FC’s clash with Sporting Kansas City was a memorable 2-1 victory for the Eastern Conference leaders, but most of the drama was helped by some inconsistent officiating in a match that featured many controversial fouls and more controversial decisions from referee Ted Unkel.
Unkel issued eight yellow cards, including five to Toronto in a match where Matt Besler was sent off. Still Toronto FC felt justly hard done by thanks to an incident where a Sporting KC defender took down TFC attacker Gilberto in a clear scoring opportunity following a Bradley thorough ball.
SKC defender Aurelian Collin took down Gilberto from behind, but Unkel waved on the play despite Gilberto clearly going to ground following some sort of contact on the play. It was a play that could have surely been a sending off for Collin at a point in the match that would have put Toronto FC firmly in control of the match, instead the Reds were given one of their first yellows of the match.
After eventually losing to a 10 men SKC side, Bradley took aim at Major League Soccer’s standards for officiating. A common theme that players, managers and supporters have often been annoyed by quite often. Bradley, making sure that he wasn’t making any excuses for a loss, made a bold statement surrounding the league’s officiating standards that he feels need to be improved if the league wants to truly improve the quality of play.
“It’s by no means an excuse, it was the same for both teams, but the referee was absolutely awful,” Bradley said during his post match interview. “The people at the MLS office in New York, when they talk about wanting to improve the league, the first thing that needs to be improved is the refereeing, bottom line.
“That shouldn’t come across as sour grapes because that’s just the reality. And it was bad for both teams and I’m sure they’re sitting in their locker-room saying the same thing to themselves but they’ve got three points with them and that certainly makes it a little easier to swallow.”
Bradley was clearly frustrated at a missed opportunity for three points against the Eastern Conference leaders, but it is hard to deny that the physical match between TFC and SKC wasn’t officiated poorly as many Kansas City supporters were left angry at Besler’s sending off feeling that he was unjustly punished. Supporters, players and managers will likely never always agree with the officials when it comes to decisions in an imperfect game, but Bradley’s comments show a growing anger towards the quality of referees in the league. Something that the league needs to fix sooner rather than later if it wants to keep growing the quality of play as well as respect for not only the league, but those who officiate the league’s matches.