For once a Toronto FC player had a good excuse for costing his team a late victory.
A questionable foul called on captain Steven Caldwell in the 88th minute negated what would have been the decisive goal, forcing Toronto to settle for a 1-1 draw Friday with the visiting New England Revolution.
Replays appeared to show that Caldwell simply beat the defender to the ball in the air.
Watch: Toronto 1-1 New England Revolution
“I think it was the wrong decision by the referee. It certainly wasn’t a foul,” Caldwell said of the whistle against him after he flicked a header off a free kick snuck inside the far post beyond the reach of New England goalkeeper Matt Reis.
“I just got into the area first and held my ground. It was very disappointing.”
Caldwell said referee Fotis Bazakos didn’t offer an explanation “but I think he knew he made the wrong decision. But we’re all human, we all make mistakes. It’s just bitterly disappointing in such a tight game.”
That was one of few scoring chances by either side in a largely uneventful second half before a crowd of 18,623 at BMO Field.
Save for a brutal opening 10 minutes, Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen felt his side deserved to win.
“What’s unfortunate is that for 80 minutes of the game the guys were superb,” Nelsen said. “I’m more disappointed because I think they really deserved to win and it was kind of taken away from them.”
Nelsen said he believes Bazakos “knows it was a mistake” to whistle Caldwell. But, no doubt leery of being fined for excessive criticism, the coach tempered his comments about the play.
“We have to live with that and that’s life,” he said. “People make mistakes. We all make mistakes.”
It was the second straight 1-1 draw for Toronto (4-12-10), now winless in four games.
The point moved New England (10-9-7), at least temporarily, into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer. The Revolution is undefeated in three straight.
The teams bookended the first half with goals with New England opened the scoring barely 90 seconds in.
Kelyn Rowe, who came in having found the net three times in his last two matches, picked up the ball just inside the Toronto half and made a nice run to the top of the penalty area where he walked around defender Doneil Henry and thumped a shot off the back of Richard Eckersley.
Rowe collected his rebound and slid a pass across the penalty area to a wide open Diego Fagundez, who tapped it into the gaping net for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Fagundez nearly doubled the lead four minutes later but Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik dove to get his fingertips on a right-footed shot before it curled inside the far post.
After a nightmarish start, Toronto settled in and began to take the play to the visitors, putting on some sustained pressure from about the half hour mark onward with a 6-5 edge in shot attempts in the first half.
Toronto was finally rewarded when, near the end of two minutes of first-half stoppage time, Wiedeman equalized. Eckersley sent a long free kick into the Revolution penalty area where it ping-ponged around before Henry, amidst appeals for a handball from New England players, slipped a pass to Wiedeman who scored his second goal of the season.
“The last 80 minutes we were the better team for sure,” said Wiedeman.
“We came out slow. The first 10 minutes were not good, not acceptable, so we need to cut that out for sure. But we definitely felt like the last one was taken away from us.”