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Chaotic brawl breaks out, punching allegations surface after NYCFC’s 3-2 win over Toronto FC

Chaotic brawl breaks out, punching allegations surface after NYCFC’s 3-2 win over Toronto FC

Toronto alleged that NYCFC’s head coach cornered and punched one of their players at the last match between the two clubs on Saturday night, too. (Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Things erupted on the pitch after New York City FC’s win over Toronto FC on Saturday night.

Shortly after NYCFC picked up a 3-2 win at BMO Field in Toronto, a massive altercation broke out between the two teams. It’s unclear what started the brawl specifically, but Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson — who won the MLS Cup in 2022 with NYCFC before landing in Canada — was right in the middle of the scrum. He was seen going at Strahinja Tanasijević multiple times, and at one point he charged at him and wrapped him up in the middle of the chaos.

Things didn’t end there, either. Toronto FC head coach John Herdman bumped into NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing during the exchange, though they were separated. Then after the game, Herdman alleged that Cushing had “punched in the face” one of his 19-year-old players at their last match in New York. NYCFC won that match 2-1.

“That was the off record report that came into the dressing room at halftime who said he got [cornered] and punched in the face,” he said, via The Athletic’s Tom Bogert.

Cushing strongly denied punching a Toronto player after the match.

"I can honestly say as a head coach — I've done 348 games — I've never ever laid a finger on a player," he said, via the Leathbridge Herald.

Regardless, Toronto captain Jonathan Osorio said it was the previous game's hostilities and the punch allegations that led to Saturday's incident boiling over.

“There was a lot of animosity from what happened last time … I understand maybe our emotions got the best of us a little bit, but we were talking, we weren’t being physical or nothing,” Osorio said. “But this is the second time now that they have gone physical now with our players. That’s how it started, and that’s how it gets out of control.”

After taking a 2-0 lead into halftime, Andrés Perea scored a goal in the 77th minute to push NYCFC to the 3-2 win on Saturday. Matt Freese made nine saves for NYCFC, too, while ending Toronto’s three-game win streak. NYCFC now sits at 4-2-5 on the year, though they trail Toronto by five points in the Eastern Conference standings.

While there are plenty of questions still to be answered, the league office is sure to hand down penalties after Saturday’s incident in Toronto. The heated rivalry between the two clubs, based on their last two matches, seems far from over.

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