Real Salt Lake's loss to D.C. United was peppered — no, smothered — with controversy, and it's awfully tempting to blame referee Baldomero Toledo for the result.
There's certainly an argument to be made there. The equalizing penalty was scored on a head-scratching call, and a minute later, a penalty incredibly more tacked-on was ruled nothing of the sort.
If I sound bitter, it's because I am. Toledo took what a match that started excitingly — even for both sides, if less positively for D.C. — and turned it into a farce. He made one very, very soft penalty call but ignored another that was tacked-on.
If we can't have consistency from of the most tenured referees in the U.S., what can we expect from the up-and-comers? If we continue to give time to referees who make game-changing mistakes week-in, week-out, what reason do we have to expect that anything will ever improve?
From this game, we should be talking about brilliant shots from distance, great runs, amazing goals. Those things were all there. And but for two minutes of awful, inexcusable decision-making, this was a match with outstanding skill on display. It's a pity.
But — and let's take a moment here — it wasn't the penalty and the non-call that made RSL lose that match. Toledo can't take credit for that, even if he wishes he could have.
What we should wonder about — and I'm certain there's a locker room full of people who were wondering the same thing — is why we couldn't keep the game sane, much less control it. Once we were on the back foot, we were really on the back foot, and that's perhaps the difference from the last few matches, which we won. We were never really, truly on the back foot in those. We never had teams streaming players forward at us.
Part of that is down to how D.C. United play — transition wasn't the focus, but merely a state by which the four to six attacking players gained possession of the ball.
We have to learn to deal with that. This isn't controversial. RSL's transition game was non-existent, but we can't let that define the team. They're better than that, and they've showed that before. They can show that again.
RSL's loss of composure killed any chance of a strong transition game. To some degree, that's a danger with playing a system that constantly commits numbers forward. That wasn't what happened, necessarily — by forgoing a traditional transition approach with a playmaker in the middle, RSL's numbers in a transition state simply weren't enough.
We'll break down the goals against us over the next two days before we immediately pivot to the much more pressing concern, but maybe in the meantime, we can figure out what needs to be done. Here's hoping the coaching staff is one, two, or ten steps ahead of us.
If that's not enough for you, here's something fun. Tony Beltran was called offside on this run. At least one, but probably three (or more!) players are keeping him on, and it's not even close. That's not Toledo, but that is on his assistant. Close calls are one thing, but this? That's something else altogether.