It’s hard to qualify for an Eastern Conference final in disappointing style, but Toronto FC took their best shot at it on Sunday.
They will have to head back to the United States without Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Altidore was sent off and will serve at least a one-match ban, while Giovinco will miss a game for picking up his second yellow card of the playoffs.
Sacha Kljestan was also shown a red card, with New York’s goal coming courtesy of a Bradley Wright-Phillips deflection.
The game started as it ended: ugly.
As was the case in the first leg, the Red Bulls enjoyed more of the possession but created few chances, while Toronto attacked less frequently but looked more dangerous when they did.
Their best chance fell to Sebastian Giovinco, who raced on to a Victor Vazquez pass into the box but could not squeeze a shot around Luis Robles from a tight angle.
What was more notable than the soccer, though, was the off-the-ball confrontations that littered the 45 minutes.
They were sparked by fouls from both teams as well as what Toronto felt were missed calls, with Giovinco denied a penalty on a challenge by Michael Murillo.
Toronto players appeal for a penalty but Chris Penso says play on. pic.twitter.com/Oe5BCTWv2W— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) November 5, 2017
Altidore and Kljestan were central in the bickering, and both received yellow cards after the Red Bulls midfielder shoved his compatriot and Altidore fell theatrically.
It was during the half-time interval, though, that things really took a bizarre turn.
Police were apparently needed to separate the two teams as they headed back to their locker rooms, and Altidore and Kljestan’s feud ended with both players being dismissed.
When Daniel Royer’s shot shortly after the break took a wild deflection off Wright-Phillips to beat Alex Bono, TFC were reeling.
And their season may have come to an end had Bono not produced a superb save to deny Wright-Phillips a second, rushing off his line and diving at the feet of the striker.
It was a momentum-changing save and when Giovinco brilliantly shrugged off multiple opponents to chip in a cross that Tyler Adams could only bundle into his own net, a weight appeared to have been lifted at BMO Field.
But Jonathan Osorio, lurking behind Adams, was called offside and the goal was waved off. It was a very, very close call.
That was not the last time Toronto felt hard done by, with Vazquez’s quick free-kick beating Robles only to be called back by Penso.
The Spaniard was then denied a penalty of his own, with the protests in the stands muted only by the fact it proved to be virtually the last kick of the tie.