Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore fouls New York City FC defender Alex Callens, which led to his red card. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

TORONTO — That collective sigh of relief you might have heard emanating from north of the border a little after 6 p.m. Sunday probably came from New York City FC.

City just dodged a bullet named Toronto FC to register a 3-2 victory at BMO Field. The visitors enjoyed a man advantage for virtually the entire match, thanks to the 11th-minute red card by striker Jozy Altidore.

Despite having the extra man, NYCFC allowed the Reds to come back not once, but twice before Ismael Tajouri-Shradi’s second goal of the match, a 24-yard blast in the 88th minute decided matters.

Forward Jo Inge Berget, who came on for David Villa in the 71st minute, headed down the ball to Tajouri-Shradi, who smacked a hard, 22-yard shot off the right post and past goalkeeper Alex Bono.

NYCFC (14-5-5, 47 points), which moved to within a point of idle Atlanta United (14-4-6, 48) , was buoyed by the return of captain Villa, playing his first competitive match since a knee injury sidelined him. Playing in his first game since a 2-1 home win over Toronto June 24, Villa tallied City’s first goal. That was his first goal since a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo May 25.

Toronto FC (6-12-5, 23), the defending MLS Cup champion, is mired in ninth place in the conference.

The tenor of the game changed in the 11th minute when former Red Bulls striker Jozy Altidore was given his marching orders by referee Hilario Grajeda for kicking defender Alex Callens in the back of his leg. The partisan Toronto fans booed the Peruvian center back every time he got the ball the rest of the match, although it was Altidore’s fault, not his.

“I didn’t do anything,” Callens told reporters through an interpreter. “We had a few encounters [throughout] the game. It was all body though, nothing with the legs until he reacted. Obviously, he didn’t like [it] and reacted as such, but I didn’t do anything.”

TFC’s Vanney on red card: “We don’t have time for things that don’t matter”

TORONTO – It took barely ten minutes for the action at BMO Field to boil over.

Being two of the top teams in the league over the last three years, whenever Toronto FCand New York City FC meet there is a tendency for fireworks to go off. More often than not, they are of the goalscoring variety, but on Sunday afternoon, as NYCFC won 3-2 to solidify their candidacy for the top of the Eastern Conference, it was a red card that provided the spark.

Toronto’s Jozy Altidore was shown a red card for a kickout at NYCFC’s Alexander Callensas the two battled for a nothing ball on the touchlines in the middle of the field.

Neither coach saw it from the opposite side of the field, at least not well enough to have an opinion, and Altidore himself was unavailable for comment, but the NYCFC defender voiced his view post-match.

“I didn’t do anything,” said Callens through a translator. “We had a few encounters [throughout] the game. It was all body though, nothing with the legs until he reacted. Obviously, he didn’t like [it] and reacted as such, but I didn’t do anything.”

Toronto FC captain and midfielder Michael Bradley, said it was “probably a red card,” adding that the play should never have reached that point.

“It’s also a foul before the red card. Jozy gets fouled,” he said. “The way things are that is going to be a red card ten out of ten times. For me, the bigger issue is it’s a foul three, four, five seconds beforehand. The referee’s ability to manage the game, some of these situations, isn’t good enough.

“Attacking players on both teams are on the end of physical plays from defenders. If the balance goes off, you let a few too many go, give a few too many one way then not the other, then things get thrown out of whack. Yes, it’s a red card, but it shouldn’t even get to that point. Whistle should have blown before to call the foul on Callens and that would have been that.”

Forced to play the rest of the match a man down, Toronto faced an uphill battle and four minutes later the visitors grabbed the lead. Right back Anton Tinnerholm mis-shanked a shot that went straight to Villa. The Spanish interantional didn’t hestitate and fired a shot to the lower right corner past Bono for his ninth goal this season and a 1-0 lead.

Toronto, however, refused to wilt and equalized in the 27th minute. Midfielder Victor Vazquez found Sebastian Giovinco at the top right of the penalty area and the Italian striker drilled a low shot to the left corner past Brad Stuver for a 1-1 deadlock.

NYCFC, however, answered back thanks to some dubious goalkeeping by Bono in the 36th minute. Tajouri-Shradi moved from right to left just outside the penalty area while avoiding a challenge from a Toronto player and sent a shot that went through a diving Bono’s hands for a 2-1 lead.

Six minutes into the second half, it was short-handed Toronto’s turn to score and equalize again. This time an unmarked Marco Delgado headed Jonathan Osorio’s left-wing cross to Vazquez, who headed it past Stuver from point-blank range for a 2-all deadlock, although the Toronto midfielder hurt his left shoulder on the play.