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 By Tom Marshall

Club America's Miguel Herrera claims Toronto police 'were hitting my players'

Club America manager Miguel Herrera accused police of assaulting his players on Tuesday and criticized the match officials following his side's first-leg defeat at Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.

The Mexican club was left fuming at a controversial first-half penalty decision that allowed Toronto to take the lead. The MLS side eventually prevailed 3-1 thanks to goals from Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Ashtone Morgan.

The teams clashed while heading into the tunnel at halftime, and Herrera launched a scathing verbal attack on the Toronto police after the game.

"What really upsets me, and what the CONCACAF people saw and I hope they report, is that the police were hitting my players," Herrera said in the postgame news conference. "I want to see it reported."

Herrera said the police hit three Club America personnel -- including players Agustin Marchesin and Bruno Valdez -- and repeated at least four times that he wants the incident reported.

Club America keeper Agustin Marchesin, left, is one of the players Miguel Herrera alleges was hit by Toronto police.
Club America keeper Agustin Marchesin, left, is one of the players Miguel Herrera alleges was hit by Toronto police.

"I hope the CONCACAF report comes because if it doesn't they are hiding what happened at halftime when they saw it and the CONCACAF [person] told me, so we hope it is in the report," he said.

Regional governing body CONCACAF is expected to issue a statement on Wednesday. A Toronto police spokesperson told Goal.com that no formal complaint had been filed, and that the force would therefore not be making a statement.

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio told the Toronto Sun that an America assistant coach elbowed him in the chin at halftime and said no players from Las Aguilas were assaulted. According to Osorio, America staff confronted Giovinco and accused him of embellishing to earn the ninth-minute penalty.

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney took issue with Herrera's comments about the Toronto police and denied any aggression towards America players.

"I was front and center, and I saw everything," Vanney said. "I'm not really going to digress into 'he said, she said.' All of that, I think, will play itself out here in the next couple of days.

"I would disagree with him [Herrera], strongly. Just in defense of the Toronto police, I'm going to disagree with him strongly, because that's not what happened.

"One of their coaches took exception to, I think, the PK, was having a go at Sebastian, and Sebastian kept walking, and Jonny [Osorio] stepped in between the assistant coach and Sebastian. I told the coach and the head coach that his coach shouldn't be talking to our players, he needs to keep moving.

"And the next thing was an elbow from said coach -- [the] assistant coach who was talking -- into Jonny's nose. And if you want to see Jonny's nose, you can take a picture of it if you want. And then it escalated from there."

Herrera also fumed at the officials, including Costa Rican referee Henry Bejarano, for what he considered an unjust performance against his team in a game already complicated by wet conditions, and he was adamant America will turn it around in the second leg.

"It's obvious, [America] is the most hated team and they want us out, but they're going to be left disappointed because we're going to turn it around," said Herrera. "We're going to fight, play well and score the goals we need.

"It's two goals, it's not a lot and fortunately we scored an away goal. We had opportunities, it isn't like we didn't. On a pitch in much better shape, we will play better."

Herrera also said match officials were "acting like clowns" in telling America players to change out of cold-weather tights before the game because they were the wrong color.

America sporting director Santiago Banos later told Media Tiempo: "Those things teach you that the officials weren't coming in to officiate fairly. When you see that the officials are from Costa Rica, there isn't a good vibe."

The tunnel at Toronto's BMO Field was also the site of a major brawl during the MLS playoffs last November, when Vanney said Altidore was "ambushed" by New York Red Bulls players and staff in the close quarters.

In 2015, Herrera was fired as coach of the Mexico national team after a television commentator accused him of assaulting him at an airport in Philadelphia.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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