MLS rebukes Toronto, NYCFC but issues no further punishment

Major League Soccer has completed its investigation into multiple altercations involving New York City FC and Toronto FC and, while it rebuked the behavior of players and staff from both teams involved, issued no additional fines or suspensions.

The statement said those involved “exhibited poor judgment and engaged in behavior contradictory to MLS values,” adding that “head coaches and executives from both clubs were required to meet with MLS Commissioner Don Garber to discuss League expectations for behavior and conduct.”

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The rather opaque statement from the league brings to an end an extraordinary series of events, which began on March 16 during a 2-1 NYCFC victory.

At halftime of that game, there was an altercation in the tunnel. Another confrontation took place nearly two months later at BMO field following another NYCFC victory on May 11.

Following that encounter there was an on-field brawl involving several players, including TFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson and NYCFC’s Strahinja Tanasijevic. Toronto forward Prince Osei Owusu and Tanasijevic were both red carded for their roles in the incident. Herdman, Johnson and Richie Laryea also received one-game suspensions.

That was a mere prelude to what took place afterward when, during Toronto’s post-game news conference, TFC manager John Herdman made the accusation that during the March 16 melee, NYCFC counterpart Nick Cushing had punched one of his players, believed to be Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty.

Herdman admitted that the available video from the tunnel didn’t back up his claims, but he stuck by them, saying that there were parts of the tunnel where security cameras weren’t working.

“You have to speak honestly,” Herdman said during a subsequent news conference. “The honest information relayed back from the team and young player was that there was an altercation; as a coach you have to support your players.”

The allegations incensed NYCFC, with Cushing denying that any such altercation took place.

“I categorically deny any involvement or any incident where I have punched or assaulted any Toronto FC player or staff member,” Cushing said during a May 13 news conference. “I am shocked, personally. I’m upset by the allegation.”

Sources told ESPN that NYCFC believes MLS’ statement doesn’t go nearly far enough and that Cushing should have been exonerated. The organization also took issue with the manner in which Herdman’s accusations were made.

The two teams don’t face each other again this season, though it’s possible they could meet in the MLS Cup playoffs.