New York (AFP) – Toronto FC advanced to Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference finals despite a 1-0 home loss Sunday to the New York Red Bulls in a playoff matchup marred by a half-time scuffle.
The heated encounter saw Toronto’s Jozy Altidore and New York’s Sacha Kljestan given red cards as tempers boiled over into shoving between the US national team members as players departed the field at half-time.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the only goal in the 53rd minute and the clubs finished level 2-2 on aggregate after the second match in the two-leg series, which went to the Canadians on away goals 2-1.
Sunday’s match was a physical affair, as both teams combined for eight yellow cards and several hard tackles and challenges in front of a crowd of 29,000 at BMO Field.
“The game just became a little bit about soccer and a lot about nonsense,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “That’s irritating I’m sure for spectators, it’s irritating for coaches and players, and it’s irritating for what our league is supposed to be about.”
Altidore’s red and an upcoming yellow-card accumulation suspension for Sebastian Giovinco, who was booked in the 80th minute, will mean Toronto could play without its two top forwards in the opening leg of the Eastern Conference finals.
Toronto will next face the Columbus Crew who also advanced despite a 2-0 loss to New York City FC in the second leg on Sunday.
Columbus won the first leg 4-1 at home on Tuesday and secured a 4-3 victory in the total-goals series.
The first game of the conference final will be in Columbus on November 21.
New York City was eliminated at the conference semi-final stage for a second consecutive season, this time after receiving a first-round bye and the second seed.
New York improved on its conference semi-final performance from last season, when it lost 7-0 to Toronto over two legs.
New York had its first goal after 16 minutes. Rodney Wallace stripped the ball off defender Josh Williams in the Columbus penalty area, then tumbled to the ground under a challenge from Williams. Referee Kevin Stott immediately pointed to the penalty spot.
David Villa drove his penalty to the open right side of the net.
It was 2-0 eight minutes after the break as Andraz Strunaz cut in from the right and aimed a shot for the top left corner. Jonathan Mensah tried to head it out of the box, but instead redirected it past goalkeeper Zack Steffan.
The Houston Dynamo punched their ticket to the Western Conference finals on Sunday at Providence Park with a 2-1 upset win in the second leg of their two game series against the Portland Timbers.
The first leg, at Houston, ended in a scoreless draw.
Dairon Asprilla opened the scoring for Portland in the 39th minute.
Defender Dylan Remick tied it in the first half and forward Mauro Manotas scored from distance in the second half as Houston advanced to face the defending MLS champion Seattle Sounders.
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