Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley called for MLS to use "a little bit of discretion and feel" in red-card judgments after star attacker Sebastian Giovinco was sent off late in Toronto's 3-2 defeat to New England on Saturday night.
Giovinco had just cut Toronto's deficit to one with an 89th-minute penalty and while running back to the center circle momentarily put his hand to the face of the Revoltion's Wilfried Zahibo, and referee Mark Geiger issued the Italian the first red card of his career following a video review.
MLS added a rule to crack down on players putting hands to the face or head of an opponent ahead of the 2013 season, but Bradley said it should not be clear cut.
"The way the rule goes right now and the way things are reffed, that's a red card. But there's no animosity in what he's doing, there's no endangerment of the other player at that point, you know?" Bradley said after the game.
"Seb is running back with the ball, the guy tries to swat it out of his hand, Seb is frustrated at the point because there have been a few plays where he hasn't gotten a call and he puts his hand up to the guy's face.
"Again, the way they're directed to call that is that it's a red card, but again I feel like in a lot of cases we would all be better off if they had the ability to use a little bit of discretion and feel."
The MLS rule says Giovinco will be fined and could face further suspension. The red card means he will already miss Toronto's next game against Orlando City, with the defending MLS Cup champions already in the midst of a difficult slump.
Toronto has lost six of its opening nine MLS games. The Reds focused most of their early-season attention on the CONCACAF Champions League -- only to lose on penalties in the final -- but have yet to shake off their malaise in MLS.
"This initial part of the season with Champions League and trying to manage everything was always going to be difficult, but we're past that now," Bradley said. "We've got to find the right ways to play ourselves back into things and regain the momentum that we've had for the better part of a year and a half or two."
Giovinco said the team has a lot to fix to rally from second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference to make the playoffs.
"It's too many games we lost. It's not good. I think we have to change direction, we have to change everything," Giovinco said. "The mentality is not in a good way and I think we have to change if we want to make the playoffs.
"We had a poor start in every way and its been a challenging stretch in every way. We just have to find the right way to keep ourselves going."
Toronto coach Greg Vanney said the way his team is conceding goals has been "unacceptable."
"I think we're now minus-9 in the first 15 minutes of the first half and of the second half and that's something we took a lot of pride in last year, but, for whatever reason -- not whatever reason -- it will stop happening, but we've got to stop giving up goals in the first halves of the games or [the start] of the second half," he said. "Playing from behind is not the position we want to be in and we have been in it too often."