TORONTO – Toronto FC are moving on, but first there is a matter that needs to be addressed.
Before conversation shifts to the continuation of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs with the Eastern Conference Championship series against Columbus Crew SC, the Reds wish to air some grievances about the events of Sunday night’s tiff with the New York Red Bulls.
Both Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco are set to miss out on the opening leg in Columbus through suspension: Giovinco picked up his second booking of the postseason in the Red Bulls’ 1-0 win, while Altidore was shown a red card for his part of the rumble in the tunnel after a fractious first half carried on inside at halftime, as was Sacha Kljestan.
On Monday, TFC filed an official appeal of Altidore's red card, with club president Bill Manning calling New York's actions "disgraceful" in remarks to the Toronto Sun.
“There is ongoing discussion and collection of as much evidence as possible,” said coach Greg Vanney. “I've seen the video that most people are seeing now. The situation escalates when opposing players and staff are in the side of the tunnel that they shouldn't be in.
“A lot of people in a very small space, heated emotion, and it starts to boil over. There is a corridor that goes the opposite way for a reason,” added Vanney. “The opposition did not go in that direction.”
There are security cameras in that part of the stadium, what they reveal is being investigated as part of the appeal process.
“It's in the hands of the league now,” added Vanney. “We are giving them as much information as we have, everybody's account who was in the area, and we'll go from there.”
Back at the training ground for a regeneration session, Justin Morrow reflected on a “crazy night” at BMO Field.
“It was a long night, coming down emotionally. I didn't get to bed until late,” said the TFC fullback. “The most important thing is that we're still alive, we're advancing, and we're going to the conference championship.”
Both Morrow and Nick Hagglund added their perspective on what occurred at the half.
“I turned around when I heard running and I saw Sacha come up behind Jozy,” recalled Hagglund, who was ahead of the scuffle. “I thought it was just them bickering, so I turned away. When I turned back it was a big jumble of guys.”
That's where Morrow entered.
“There were people in there I didn't know, weren't part of either team. I didn't really understand what was going on, just that there were a lot of people shoving,” he said. “The most egregious thing to take away from it was that their whole team was in our tunnel, outside our locker room.
“In sports these things happen, games get physical, it gets emotional, fights break out,” added Morrow. “But they shouldn't be in our tunnel; they instigated it in that sense.
“Last night, the whole series in general, was on that border,” he continued. “That was the Red Bulls game plan; they played [it] out effectively in the second leg. Credit goes to us. We did a massive job to get through that. They presented a tough challenge and we passed.”
Asked if New York had reached out to apologize for what happened, Vanney said: “No. They got exactly what they were looking for: an antagonized Jozy, somebody they could pick on.”
Added Morrow: “Their whole staff was outside our locker room. There are videos of everything. The league will review it; they have their process. They'll decide what proper punishment will be.”
It was not just the tunnel incursion, nor that two TFC goals were disallowed, that riled up Vanney.
Over the last few weeks off-field distractions have taken a central role in the conversation around his team, whether the boo-birds in Atlanta on Decision Day, the verbal assaults directed at Altidore in New Jersey, or this latest stramash.
“I'm annoyed because the dialogue is not about soccer,” said Vanney. “That's irritating. In what is supposed to be our league's spectacle about the sport, it's become about a lot of other things.”