New York City FC 3-2 Toronto FC (May 11, 2024) Game Analysis

TORONTO — Rookie Malachi Jones and Andrés Perea scored second-half goals and Matt Freese made nine saves as New York City FC held on for a 3-2 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday night with a brawl taking place after the final whistle.

A melee ensued after the match involving players from both sides. Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson, a former New York player, was in the middle of it — seemingly trying to play peacekeeper.

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There was bad blood between the two teams dating back to New York’s 2-1 win on March 16 when there was an altercation in the tunnel at halftime at Yankee Stadium.

New York first-year coach Nick Cushing played down that incident when asked about it prior to the rematch, saying: “There was nothing in it. It was two teams that are fighting for three points.”

Toronto’s first-year coach John Herdman and captain Jonathan Osorio had a much different recollection.

Andrés Perea scored a second-half goal to help NYCFC past Toronto.

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Osorio said Cushing crossed the line with his talk in the tunnel and then it got physical.

“Then when we hear that the coach and three of their players corner a 19-year-old (player) of ours, by himself. That’s when there’s a problem,” Osorio said. “And I think that kind of carried over this game, probably from their side as well. … We were just letting them know that we didn’t forget about that.”

Osorio did not identify the 19-year-old but the age fits Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who scored in the 7th minute at Yankee Stadium. Herdman said the player in question “said he got cornered and punched in the face.”

Herdman said there were no repercussions from the March game because “the cameras weren’t working in a certain area of the stadium,” a comment that drew a snicker from his captain.

Cushing denied hitting a Toronto player.

“I can honestly say as head coach — I’ve done 348 games — I’ve never ever laid a finger on a player,” he said after Saturday’s game when apprised of the Toronto accusations.

Herdman, however, also pointed the finger at Cushing.

“You don’t want to see those scenes in football but it’s a passionate group,” Herdman said. “There was definitely some bad blood that spilled over from the first game that involved their head coach.”

Santiago Rodríguez staked New York City (5-5-2) to a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick in the 25th minute. Rodríguez scored for a fourth time this season — sending a right-footed shot to the bottom right corner of the net following a hand-ball foul on Toronto midfielder Matty Longstaff.

NYCFC took a 2-0 lead into halftime on Jones’ first career goal. Fellow rookie Hannes Wolf picked up an assist when Jones — a 20-year-old forward — scored in the 44th minute.

Toronto (6-5-1) pulled within a score early in the second half on an unassisted goal by Federico Bernardeschi in the 55th minute. Bernardeschi scored his first two goals of the season last week in a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas.

NYCFC regained a two-goal lead in the 78th minute on Perea’s first score of the season. Wolf and rookie Agustín Ojeda notched assists. Ojeda’s helper was the first of his career and Wolf’s was his third in his first season.

Toronto again pulled within a goal when defender Raoul Petretta found the net for the first time in his career — in the 89th minute — with an assist from Longstaff.

Bernardeschi was tagged with a second yellow card two minutes after Petretta’s goal, forcing Toronto to play a man down through stoppage time. Bernardeschi and Kevin Long will miss the next match — Long for yellow-card accumulation.

Freese finished one save shy of matching his career high.

Johnson turned away one shot for Toronto.

Toronto saw a three-match win streak come to an end. Toronto has gone from the worst team in the league last season to third place in the Eastern Conference at the beginning of the day. The club already has 19 points this season after finishing the 2023 campaign with 22.

Lorenzo Insigne saw his first action for Toronto since March 23. Insigne, who had not played since he suffered a thigh injury in a 2-0 win over Atlanta United, subbed in for Derrick Etienne Jr. in the 76th minute and missed his only shot.

NYCFC’s win over Toronto in the first matchup earned Cushing his first victory and handed Herdman his first loss

NYCFC leads the all-time series 11-9-7. NYCFC has won the last four in the matchup by a combined 13-3 score.

New York City stays on the road to play the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. Toronto travels to play Nashville SC on Wednesday.