New York City FC coach Nick Cushing is calling on Major League Soccer to launch a full investigation into allegations made over the weekend by Toronto FC head coach John Herdman that he allegedly punched a player in an altercation following a match at Yankee Stadium in March. 

Cushing has denied the allegation and opened a virtual media availability on Monday by telling reporters that the club “proactively asked MLS to investigate the incident.”

Herdman brought the incident to light during a postmatch press conference on Saturday night after a particularly feisty match between NYCFC and Toronto, which included an on-field brawl after New York captured a 3-2 win at BMO field. 

NYCFC coach Nick Cushing
NYCFC coach Nick Cushing is calling for an investigation from MLS. USA TODAY Sports

“I categorically deny any involvement or any incident where I have punched or assaulted any Toronto FC player,” Cushing said on Monday, according to The Athletic. “I am shocked, personally. I’m upset by the allegation.”

Cushing did not extrapolate beyond the initial comment and said the MLS and the club’s lawyers would handle the investigation. 

The Toronto head coach alleged on Saturday that there was an “off-record” report from a 19-year-old player on the team that he had been “cornered and punched in the face” during the March 16 match between the two Eastern Conference clubs. 

The incident reportedly took place in the tunnel and there were two cameras outside the locker room, which NYCFC is said to have sent the footage to the league in March and never heard from them about the incident. 

Forward Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty is reportedly the player that Cushing is alleged to have punched, The Athletic reported. 

He is also the only 19-year-old on the Toronto FC roster. 

Herdman doubled down on his claim during a media conference on Monday that took place just before Cushing spoke with reporters. 

“I think if you’re in the media you’ve got to speak honestly,” Herdman said. “The honest information that was relayed back from the team and from the young player was that they’ve been in that altercation. As a coach, I’ve got to believe my players and support and back my players”

MLS told The Athletic that it was aware of the situation and looking into the matter. 

Saturday’s brawl saw both teams shoving each other and having to be separated with Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson and NYCFC defender Strahinja Tanasijević at the center of it all. 

NYCFC has two matches coming up this week with the Philadelphia Union and the New York Red Bulls.

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