TORONTO — Toronto FC lost 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls in an abrasive game Sunday and still advanced to the MLS Eastern Conference final on away goals after the two-leg series ended tied 2-2 on goals aggregate.
It was a feisty affair that saw Toronto striker Jozy Altidore and Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan sent off after a tunnel melee at halftime. The wild match also featured a pair of disallowed goals and six yellow cards, and a drink thrown at an official from the crowd.
In addition to Altidore, league-leading Toronto will be without star striker Sebastian Giovinco for the next game after his second yellow in two games. TFC will play the Columbus Crew, who advanced 3-4 on aggregate against NYCFC.
“You put someone else in. I mean that’s the way it is, we’ve lost them as of now. There’s video footage of what happened in the tunnel. From my estimation and what I’ve heard, Jozy got ambushed in the tunnel and we will see where that goes,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said.
Kljestan had a different view of the confrontation, which started on the field.
“I think that he went to stand over Tyler Adams and went to intimidate him and I came in to ask him to stop and get out of my face and I pushed him back and obviously he fell down, very easily in my opinion,” Kljestan said. “At halftime he shoved me into the wall. I have a clear conscious. I don’t feel like I deserved a red card.”
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his 100th career goal for the sixth-seeded Red Bulls when a long-range shot deflected in off him in the 53rd minute. A Toronto goal by Jonathan Osorio in the 78th was called off due to a foul, apparently for what was considered a shove. Things got even uglier minutes later when a drink was thrown from the stands at referee Chris Penso after he booked Giovinco.
After falling 2-1 at home on Monday night, the Red Bulls needed to win and score at least two goals Sunday to avoid defeat.
The bad blood bubbled from the get-go and Altidore and Kljestan did not emerge from the tunnel for the second half. It was later announced the two had been red-carded for violent conduct in the melee unseen by the sellout crowd of 29,974 at BMO Field on a wet, grey day. Both players were yellow-carded earlier for a confrontation in the 34th minute.
The two teams use the same tunnel to exit the field but the visitors are supposed to turn left to their dressing room while the home side goes straight to reach theirs.
“This is our first encounter like this from a stadium perspective. This game became a little bit about soccer and a lot about nonsense. That’s irritating for spectators, coaches, players, it’s not what this league is about,” Vanney said.
Neither team seemed happy with Penso and Toronto captain Michael Bradley was yellow-carded for giving Penso an earful on the field after the first half ended.
The Red Bulls went ahead early in the second half when Daniel Royer’s shot from some 40 yards out deflected off Wright-Phillips into the corner, while a stranded goalkeeper Alex Bono looked on.
Bono then came up big in the 62nd minute, coming out to stop Wright-Phillips from close range.
Wright-Phillips was yellow-carded in the 71st minute for elbowing defender Drew Moore in the head.