HARRISON, N.J. – Emotions ran high during the LA Galaxy’s physical 1-0 road over New York at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon, and the tempers didn’t subside at the final whistle.
Just seconds after referee Alex Prus signaled the end of the match, a scuffle broke out between the two sides that resulted in red cards for New York’s Rafa Márquez and LA’s Juninho. Both will be unavailable for the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals at the Home Depot Center on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 11 pm ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes; live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
The scuffle started when Márquez picked the ball up after the final whistle and hurled it at LA's Landon Donovan.
Adam Cristman, who was standing next to Márquez, proceeded to get into a shoving match with Marquez, leading to the arrival of Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel and Juninho. Replays show both Márquez and Keel hitting the floor seconds later as Juninho is pulled away. (Watch video below)
“Rafa Márquez received a red card for throwing a ball at an opponent, and Juninho received a red for striking an opponent,” said an MLS spokesperson. “I do know that it was Stephen Keel who Juninho struck. I don’t know the identity of the player who the ball was thrown at, but I know Márquez threw a ball at an LA Galaxy player and that’s why he received the red card.”
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe was shaking hands with Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena when the episode erupted.
“After the game, I couldn’t really see what happened,” he said. “I asked the referee about the decision and he told me, so we will see what’s happened there.”
Keel, who laid out on the field for several moments as the fracas continued around him, was bleeding slightly. The center back claimed he was playing the part of peacemaker when he was struck.
“Tensions were high," he said. "You can see it’s a playoff game, two teams battling for 90 minutes. At the end, it’s a little scuffle, nothing major. I think someone comes in to break it up and [I] got knocked in the mouth a little bit. Nothing major. For me, it’s not a big deal.”
Some of the Galaxy players, seemingly, feel the episode — and the game, in general — was more of a big deal.
"In all my years in this league, I have not played against a cheaper team," Donovan said. "And they've been doing it all year. We've seen that stuff all year."
Márquez's suspension will mark the third straight game the Red Bulls will have to replace a player in their starting XI due to a red card. Two weeks ago, Thierry Henry was sent off in Kansas City, and then in midweek, Jan Gunnar Solli was ejected in the 80th minute in a win at Dallas and missed Sunday’s match vs. the Galaxy.
“[Márquez's suspension] puts a little pressure on us,” defender Tim Ream said. “We’ve shown the past couple of games that we’re up to the task and guys step in and get the job done. If we are without Rafa, so be it. It’s just one of those things. We have guys willing to step in and get the job done.”
WATCH: Postgame scuffle breaks out between NY and LA
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed on Twitter at @KristianRDyer