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

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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…

Kaku gets 3 matches for booting ball into crowd, injuring spectator

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The struggling New York Red Bulls got a major let-off Wednesday with the news that Kaku would only be suspended two more matches for blasting a ball into a group of fans.

It’s a total of three matches away from the Red Bulls after the incident, which occurred against Sporting KC on April 14.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby recap ]

Someone must have convinced the league that Kaku’s intent was to smash the ball into the advertising boards and not the fans, and injuring a spectator certainly could’ve carried a much longer suspension than three matches.

Kaku already missed a match against New England and will sit out matches against FC Cincinnati and the LA Galaxy.

The 24-year-old midfielder, thrice capped by Paraguay, has seven goals and 14 assists during little more than a season with RBNY. The Red Bulls have started the season 1W-4L-2T.

Solskjaer: Man City “had too much for” Manchester United

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Manchester United has spent a lot of money on players, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the talent on show at Old Trafford is nothing compared to rivals Manchester City.

What else could he say after his rivals outclassed him 2-0 on Wednesday, a club which wasn’t even in the same league — physically and metaphorically — for half of his tenure as a player for Manchester United?

[ MORE: Manchester Derby recap | 4 things ]

“They had too much for us,” Solskjaer said after the loss. “They are the best team in the country, they have set the standard in the last two seasons and I don’t know how many points they’ve taken. What Pep Guardiola has done with his players is remarkable and we are so close to it in the vicinity so we feel it every day.”

This was a different loss than the lackluster 4-0 blowout at the hands of Everton on Sunday, as United definitely worked hard but had little to offer in attack aside from a few choice Paul Pogba long balls and some wayward finishing from an industrious Jesse Lingard.

“There is a difference in quality,” Solskjaer said in another interview. “That is why they are top and we are where we are. Living in Manchester we cannot be happy with that. It is up to us to close that gap and overtake them.”

[ MORE: Pep reacts | Sane with NBCSN crew ]

We bet every one those words felt like broken glass climbing out of Solskjaer’s throat.

It’s going to take a squad revolution and then time to settle into a new reality. United is probably at least another full season from contending with City, even given last season’s runner-up finish.

And that has to be weird for a manager who was used to seeing the noisy neighbors stationed in the Championship. Solskjaer knows he has a lot of work to do at Old Trafford. Will his bosses let him do it?

I understand Pep using me off the bench, says super sub Sane

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Leroy Sane added a second 10-goal season to his Premier League resume on Wednesday when Man City beat Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford.

That he did so in about 650 less minutes says something about his growth and patience as Pep Guardiola has opted to focus on other options in attack.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby recap | 4 things ]

“The mood is obviously you want to play every game but in this squad it’s sometimes normal that you can sit on the bench,” Sane said in a post-match pitch-side talk with the NBCSN crew.

“It’s why I’m not really disappointed. I think in my own head to work harder and stay focused. On the pitch there are really good players playing good. I appreciate it, I enjoy it, and I can learn from this.”

Arlo White asked Sterling whether he believes City are the favorites to win the Premier League title. Liverpool is a point behind City, but has two of its three remaining matches at home compared to City’s one.

“It’s hard to say,” Sane said. “There’s a lot of pressure from Liverpool, but we stay focused on game to game. We have it in our own hands, so just stay focused, and try to win the last three games.”

Pep urges increased focus after Man City keeps PL title control

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are officially over their UEFA Champions League exit, and now salivating at the idea of defending their Premier League crown following a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday.

And the manager is now demanding that his players get laser-focused on the game-by-game.

[ MORE: Recap | 3, er, 4 things ]

“I told the players don’t read tomorrow, don’t watch the television, just rest and sleep a lot and go in there against Burnley,” Guardiola said.

The Man City boss says the side’s early second half changes, taking off Fernandinho to move in Leroy Sane and slot Ilkay Gundogan a bit deeper made the difference from 0-0 to 2-0.

“We knew without Romelu Lukaku they would try more runs in behind,” he said. “The chances we lost came from us losing simple balls in the middle and we changed things in the second half, with Ilkay Gundogan in the middle and with Leroy Sane on we were more dynamic.”

And Guardiola tried to find the words to explain how either Man City or Liverpool will walk away from this season at second place in the league despite being two of the greatest sides ever produced by England.

“Both teams deserve the title, but it can be just one,” Guardiola said. “The team that is going to lose cannot have regrets because they have given everything. Normally with this kind of victory you can it enjoy it the most but now we have to be calm. We have to be in the right phase.”