Dan Hamilton/USA Today
Toronto FC took its 2-1 aggregate score back to BMO to close out the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The Reds did advance but not in the way they would have liked. At the end of the night New York Red Bulls won 1-0 but ultimately it wasn’t enough as TFC advanced on away goals. What could have been an offensive showdown turned into one of the uglier matches of the season. Atrocious refereeing and undisciplined play from both sides resulted in a poor advertisement for MLS.
Both teams began the game pressing high, especially the home team. End to end rushes characterized an exciting start to the match. Chances by both Altidore and Giovinco went agonisingly wide of the far left post. Toronto sat back for the second half of the opening 45 minutes inviting pressure from New York who were unable to get a shot on target. The latter stages of the second half were marred with a clear missed penalty on Giovinco and rough play between Jozy Altidore and the Red Bulls.
A skirmish erupted at the end of the second half where US international Sacha Kljestan shoved Altidore in what should have been a red card. Both players received yellow cards much to the dismay of the sold out crowd of 29,974. During halftime according to witnesses several Red Bulls players targeted Altidore and continued the fight in the tunnel. Speaking at the press conference post-game TFC coach Greg Vanney said that he and NY bench boss Jesse Marsch had to break up the scrum after “6 Red Bulls players jumped Jozy.” A video has emerged of the incident, you be the judge.
The second half was even uglier. A long shot deflected off Bradley Right-Phillips and found the back of the net as Alex Bono sat frozen, nothing he could do. Yellow cards were flying out of the referee’s pocket including one to Sebastian Giovinco for descent and the Atomic Ant will miss the first leg against Columbus. Toronto fans had enough and began throwing beer cans at the referee with nearly 30, 000 fans chanting “REF YOU SUCK!” Two disallowed goals that should have stood came from a Jonathan Osorio header but was called back for a non-existent foul. Victor Vazquez scored off a free kick but was called back because the referee had not blown the whistle, yet the Spaniard did not ask for the 10 yard distance between the defender. According to Vazquez the referee apologized to him personally after. In the end the highly tense affair ended 1-0 for New York. The Reds survived and in Michael Bradley’s words post match, “We found a way to put ourselves through, and that is the only thing that matters this time of year.”
The Reds will face a stiff test in Columbus without Giovinco and Altidore. TFC have the best depth in the league and now is the time to prove that once again. Greg Vanney has two weeks to prepare for the match while MLS reviews the tunnel scrap in what should never occur with two experienced clubs at this level. Good teams win ugly. Toronto FC must hope this is just a blip and that this adversity will make them stronger and fuel them to go all the way as an deep playoff run is expected.