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Who was to blame? Three incidents during Toronto FC’s war with the New York Red Bulls

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Was anyone ever in control of this match?

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want about the playoffs, but one thing is for sure: it’s exciting. Every MLS playoff match this season has provided some sort of fireworks, in more ways than one.

On Sunday, it seemed as if those fireworks occurred more often off the pitch than on it. Maybe the two teams were inspired by Georges St. Pierre the night before?

Nevertheless there was no doubt that this match was out of control. Numerous calls were made that were dubious and many incidents occurred that should have been avoided. So let’s take a look at three of these incidents and determine who was right, who was wrong and what could have been done differently.

1. Sacha Kljestan shoves Jozy Altidore to the ground

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned, this match was out of control, but it started in the first half when Sacha Kljestan shoved Jozy Altidore to the ground, drawing yellow cards for both players.

Following a rough tackle on Sebastian Giovinco, Altidore had some choice words for the Red Bulls defence, drawing the ire of many, including Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, and leading to a minor altercation.

I give credit to the referee here because he tried to de-escalate the situation, while understanding that this was a big game and emotions were running high. I feel this is why no one was carded for this event. However, unsurprisingly Kljestan continued the conversation with Altidore afterwards, leading to a shove and Jozy on the ground.

Now, let’s be honest: Jozy flopped here. I mean, there’s very few players that can knock him over that easily. However, a player shouldn’t be allowed to put his hands near or on someone else’s face. That constitutes violent conduct. In a regular-season match that could be a straight red, but I agree with the decision to give him a yellow.

At the same time, I don’t think Jozy deserved a yellow as well because he was calming down before Kljestan got him going again. I think the referee could have saved the rest of the match by letting Sacha know that he was on the wrong path at that moment.

2. The infamous tunnel fight

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What happened in the BMO Field tunnel at half-time on Sunday has become the talk of the league.

I think Michael Bradley had the best reaction at the end of the game when he said that “they shouldn’t be anywhere close to our locker room”. For those of you that have not seen the tunnel, the visitors’ locker room is an immediate left before the ‘Tunnel Club’, where fans can see their beloved Reds enter their locker room.

So if I am sitting in the league office reviewing this incident, I would have to wonder what half the Red Bulls players were doing five feet from TFC’s locker room in the first place. To me, I feel that this was a planned attack led by Kljestan and possibly even supported by Jesse Marsch.

Now, I don’t blame the referee for what he did. He probably did not get a good look at what happened, but needed to show some sort of authority. However, it was clear that the Red Bulls were in the wrong here and I would be very unhappy should Altidore’s suspension not be rescinded or he be handed further discipline.

3. Jonathan Osorio’s goal called back for offside

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s not much to say about this except for the fact that it was offside. Yes, he was offside by a hair, but he was offside. A lot of fans in the stadium were wondering why video replay was not used, but it has been made apparent to me that it was used and the referee was indeed informed that it was offside.

It was certainly a key moment in the match considering that it would have made the mountain bigger for New York to climb and it would have also sparked TFC’s offence, which is always dangerous for the opposition.

There were many incidents in this match that could have been handled differently. For example, Giovinco should have had a penalty in the first half and there were quite few dangerous tackles that went undisciplined. I also felt Felipe was given a lot of leeway in the entire series.

Nevertheless, our boys prevailed demonstrating what has come to be known as ‘big balls’. However, we also showed that we were vulnerable, which won’t bode well if we want to lift the trophy this year.

We have to smarten up, keep our emotions in check and play the game the same way we have been all season. If we don’t, then we will fall into the traps set by our opponents such as on Sunday night, when New York’s game plan was to get into to the head of our star players, which was done shamefully but effectively.

The task won’t be made easier without our strike tandem of Altidore and Giovinco, but we didn’t come this far without using the quality of depth that exists within our squad.