Altidore, Kljestan react to wild tunnel fracas by blaming each other

Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto FC’s MLS Cup Final hopes have taken a big hit after the Reds barely escaped New York Red Bulls’ stiff test at BMO Field on Sunday.

Leading 2-1 after one leg and carrying a pair of away goals, TFC lost a scrappy 1-0 second leg at home to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against Columbus.

[ RECAP: TFC 1-0 (2-2) RBNY ]

The Reds won’t have Sebastian Giovinco for the first leg after a late card for dissent, his second of the tie, and also won’t have Jozy Altidore after on- and off-field skirmishes with USMNT teammate Sacha Kljestan.

Altidore did not cover himself in glory. After Giovinco fouled Red Bulls youngster Tyler Adams, the teams came together in an incident that ended with Kljestan and Altidore going head-to-head before the big TFC forward comically hit the deck after a shove from the Red Bulls midfielder.

Altidore initiates the contact by leaning into Kljestan’s face, and then goes down like the 150-pound diminutive player he is. Oh, that’s right, he’s 6-foot-1 and essentially carved like the response to Michelangelo being asked by an American investor, “Hey, buddy, can you make me a soccer god out of this here marble?”

Those were just a pair of yellows, and life got real nutty for both teams in the tunnel at halftime. There’s a lot of salty language in this video, and it’s NSFW so we won’t embed, but if you want to watch head coaches Greg Vanney and Jesse Marsch yell at each other in the middle of what looked like a wild night at the club, feel free.

Both players were sent off with second yellows after either (thanks to intrepid Toronto Sun reporter Kurtis Larson for the quotes):

A) Altidore shoved Kljestan into a wall

“At halftime he shoved me into the wall. I have a clear conscience,” Kljestan said. “I don’t feel like I deserved a red card. So it’s a pretty helpless feeling to not be able to play in the second half.”

and/or

B) Kljestan went at Altidore from behind

“Yo, Sacha Kljestan, why you snitching bro?” Altidore tweeted. “You tried to pull up on me while my back was turned and almost got that work. Safe flight.”

Cool stories, fellas. For what it’s worth, and it’s not much even if the staffer is a true gem, Larson tweeted that a Toronto FC staffer says Altidore was pulled into the fracas from behind while heading to the dressing room.

Again, it’s someone who works for TFC, the Reds would like to have Altidore for the Conference Finals. So, about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of salt that fill BMO Field, but something to consider.

I say the following as someone who if anything would feel a bit of bias as a former season ticket holder ages ago — Toronto was the closest MLS team to my hometown of Buffalo — TFC put forth a display that will turn itself in a villain for most neutrals (and the officiating was admittedly abysmal and let the match out of control). There was plenty of flopping even apart from Altidore’s play acting.

Here’s the MLSSoccer.com take:

Hope the guys sort this out before the World Cup…