Rookie Malachi Jones and Andrés Perea found the net in the second half, while Matt Freese showcased a stellar performance with nine saves, guiding New York City FC to a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over Toronto FC on Saturday night, marred by a post-match brawl at BMO Field.

Following the final whistle, chaos erupted as players from both teams clashed on the field. Notably, Toronto’s goalkeeper Sean Johnson, a former New York player, was observed amidst the commotion, seemingly attempting to defuse the situation.

Tensions had been simmering between the two sides since New York’s 2-1 victory on March 16, which witnessed an altercation in the tunnel at Yankee Stadium during halftime.

While New York’s first-year coach, Nick Cushing, downplayed the incident prior to the rematch, Toronto’s coach, John Herdman, and captain Jonathan Osorio offered a contrasting narrative. Osorio accused Cushing of crossing a line with his remarks in the tunnel, leading to a physical confrontation.

Osorio hinted at an incident involving a 19-year-old player being cornered and allegedly punched in the face, although he didn’t disclose the player’s identity. Herdman corroborated the claim, emphasizing that the incident left the player shaken.

Despite Toronto’s allegations, Cushing vehemently denied any involvement in physical altercations with Toronto players.

The match saw Santiago Rodríguez handing New York City a 1-0 lead from the penalty spot in the 25th minute, followed by Malachi Jones extending the lead to 2-0 just before halftime. Toronto narrowed the gap early in the second half through Federico Bernardeschi, but Perea’s goal in the 78th minute restored New York City’s two-goal cushion.

Toronto mounted a late surge with Raoul Petretta scoring in the 89th minute, but Bernardeschi’s second yellow card reduced Toronto to ten men for the remainder of the match.

The victory ended Toronto’s three-match winning streak under first-year manager John Herdman. Despite the defeat, Toronto has shown significant improvement, currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference.

Lorenzo Insigne made his return for Toronto since March 23, subbing in during the 76th minute, but failed to make an impact.

New York City FC will face the Philadelphia Union on the road next, while Toronto FC travels to play Nashville SC.