Thoughts on the MLS findings regarding the NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing accusation

  • Last month, the NYCFC head coach was accused of punching a Toronto FC player back in March
  • MLS released their findings with the investigation that also included both scuffles from the two games this season
  • With no further punishment, here are some thoughts on the findings and MLS' statement
Nick Cushing of NYCFC
Nick Cushing of NYCFC / Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When New York City FC played Toronto FC last month, there was plenty of drama. Tensions rose as the match was played, and by the end, the two teams clashed with one another, leading to multiple suspensions. It felt like a true rivalry game, but what was heard afterward was shocking.

After the match, Toronto FC head coach John Herdman accused NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing of punching one of their players during the previous meeting at Yankee Stadium. The player, although not named, was believed to be Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty. Toronto's head coach claimed there was no video evidence due to no cameras in the tunnel where the alleged event occurred. The Pigeons' coach of course denied that he punched anyone, let alone an opposing player. He told reporters at the time "I can honestly say as a head coach, I’ve done 348 games, I’ve never ever laid a finger on a player."

The accusation from the first game and then the clash after the second one led Major League Soccer to investigate the teams and events. Due to the ongoing investigation, Skyscraper Blues refrained from voicing thoughts and opinions until a conclusion was reached.

MLS has concluded the investigation into Nick Cushing, NYCFC, and Toronto

After almost a month of review, MLS finally reached a decision. There is to be no further suspension or punishment for either team. The league released the following statement last Thursday about NYCFC and Toronto:

"On March 16, there was an altercation between players and staff members of New York City Football Club and Toronto FC that started on the field and continued into the stadium tunnels. During the next meeting of the two clubs on May 11, the teams engaged in an altercation that led to several player and coach suspensions.

"The League conducted a review of both incidents and determined that players and staff from both teams involved in the altercation exhibited poor judgment and engaged in behavior contradictory to MLS values. While no additional suspensions or fines have been issued, head coaches and executives from both clubs were required to meet with MLS Commissioner Don Garber to discuss League expectations for behavior and conduct."

There is a lot to unpack from the clear yet vague statement. To begin, it is clear MLS feels enough was done already with the earlier suspensions. They also feel they said their piece to NYCFC and the Reds. Both sides understand that the scuffles during the two fixtures cannot happen again and everyone must hold one another to higher standards. The behavior was unacceptable.

However, the statement was vague in that MLS did not clarify whether the accusatory events during the NYCFC home game took place. In other words, the league did not say whether Cushing punched a Toronto player. Therefore, he was not cleared, but he was not deemed guilty either.

Thoughts on the MLS statement and some speculation about the result of the investigation

MLS was wrong when they did not clarify the results of the investigation of the accusation against the NYCFC head coach. Such a statement is damaging and asinine. The fact Herdman said what he said without offering physical evidence is wrong. It is not like he said Cushing cornered the player and said things. Rather, in a postgame press conference, he accused Cushing of punching a player after almost two months between fixtures. Why did he not bring it up to the league before? Were there any bruises to utilize as evidence of the punch? Were there any witnesses?

In addition, the statement allows readers and listeners to decipher as they will. Some might assume that MLS is covering for NYCFC by covering up the punch. Others might feel Cushing is fully in the clear and did nothing wrong. Instead, they may feel Herdman should be fired for his lie, for they believe the head coach made this up.

It needs to be reminded though that it is entirely possible, and keep in mind this is only speculation and that Skyscraper Blues is not claiming anything, that Marshall-Rutty is the one who lied. Perhaps the situation was misinterpreted. It could also be possible that Cushing and a few NYCFC players did go up to the Toronto player. Again, the statement's vagueness allows one to think, speculate, and wonder.

At the same time, one can believe that there are two reasons why no further action will be taken. The first is because of the lack of evidence. Possibly, there was no video evidence or witnesses other than statements from Cushing and the player. The other is that MLS is being careful with what they say and do. It is entirely possible there was more of a scuffle if words were said in the tunnel at Yankee Stadium. If both sides are at fault, then why punish further when there was already some punishment?

When all is said and done, there is no doubt that if there was clear evidence of Cushing punching someone, then both NYCFC and MLS would have taken action. The head coach is not known for having a temper though. There has never been any accusation prior to Herdman's and there are no stories out there about him going after other players. It is hard to see someone like him going after somebody else.

Regarding Herdman, it is hopeful that the league would have taken action in the case there was proof that Cushing did nothing. That is why the belief is that there was not enough evidence. Still, it would have been nice for MLS to clarify this in full detail. NYCFC fans, and even Toronto fans, deserve just as much.