TORONTO – Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore says he knows what happened in the BMO Field tunnel melee and the video backs him up.
Altidore and New York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan were ejected after the two teams clashed in the tunnel Sunday at halftime of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference seminal.
Toronto is appealing Altidore’s red card and its accompanying one-game suspension, saying its security camera footage shows that their man was not at fault.
The Red Bulls have also appealed their red card.
Altidore said he plans to be back for the Eastern Conference final against Columbus. The series starts Nov. 21 in Ohio.
“I’m OK. I’m not really distracted by it because I know what happened and nothing happened that’s being reported,” Altidore said Thursday. “So I’m fine with it. I think the club’s doing a great job handling it and I’m looking forward to being part of both legs against Columbus.”
He said he’s not worried because there’s video footage “and you can’t deny those things.”
Altidore, who did not speak to the media after Sunday’s game, told reporters that Kljestan initiated the tunnel incident. The two had clashed late in the half, with Kljestan giving him a shove.
“He came up behind me, tried to like grab (me) or whatever and I just pushed him off me and that was it. He didn’t fall into a wall, none of that happened. So I don’t know what’s he talking about there,” Altidore said.
“Then I walked right into the locker-room. I didn’t even see or know about the whole brawl thing until later on. I was not involved in any way. I defended myself quickly and that was it. The video doesn’t lie. And hopefully the league is going to do the right thing, which I’m sure they will.”
Kljestan told reporters after the game that Altidore was the aggressor.
“At halftime, (Altidore) shoved me into the wall,” the New York captain said. “And so I have a clear conscience. I don’t feel like I deserve a red card, so it’s a pretty helpless feeling not to be able to play in the second half because of that.”
Altidore said he did not know he had been red-carded until he was about to go out for the second half and coach Greg Vanney told him he had been ejected.
“I was just as shocked as he was,” Altidore said.
The Toronto forward says he knows Kljestan and Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch and “I know they aren’t terrible guys.”
“Everybody gets heightened at this time of year,” he added.
He acknowledged everyone could have done a better job keeping their cool, but said the incident had perhaps been overblown.