Michael Bradley didn't mince words when speaking out against the officiating in Toronto FC's 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
The American midfielder was extremely critical of the referees and implored the Major League Soccer home office in New York City to do something to remedy what he feels is a systemic problem throughout the league, per The Associated Press, via ESPN FC:
It's by no means an excuse, it was the same for both teams, but the referee was absolutely awful. 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.
TFC picked up five yellow cards in the defeat, including four in the first half. Sporting KC had three of their own, including two for Matt Besler, who was sent off in the 75th minute. According to WhoScored.com, the two teams combined to commit 37 fouls, with Toronto having a much higher cards-per-foul percentage (29 percent) to Sporting (10 percent).
Bradley's biggest bone of contention was likely Ted Unkel's decision to play on in the 23rd minute after Aurelien Collin—the last Sporting KC defender—brought down Gilberto. Both Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Sun and Dan Riccio of Sportsnet 590 The Fan argued that Collin should've been sent off:
Referee Unkel now with two blown calls in this match. Collin should be off after denying Gilberto of a clear scoring chance. #TFCLive— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) July 26, 2014
TFC fans have every right to gripe on that missed call by Unkel. Collin with a last man tackle on Gilberto, should be red every time.— Dan Riccio (@DanRiccio590) July 26, 2014
Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen didn't let Unkel off the hook, either.
"Collin should have been sent off. I mean an under-12 ref can pick that one," he said after the match. "That's pretty basic."
Jacob Peterson fired home the winner for Sporting Kansas City in the 80th minute to give them their fourth straight win and sixth in seven matches.
Toronto FC, on the other hand, have one win in their last seven. Perhaps some of that frustration led to Bradley's comments.
There's no question, though, that the officiating in MLS isn't the quality of what you'll find in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and others. The league is still growing, and that's reflected in the referees as well.
Of course, as long as referees are human, they won't be right 100 percent of the time, no matter the quality of the league.