The Red Bulls finished off a dream regular season in impressive fashion on Sunday, posting a 5-2 victory over Chicago to clinch the MLS Supporters' ShieldSunday's MLS regular season finale started in ominous fashion for the New York Red Bulls. Needing a win to secure the MLS Supporters' Shield, and grab the first major trophy in the club's mostly disappointing 16-year existence, the Red Bulls went down a goal after just six minutes, with former Red Bull Mike Magee delivering the opener.
For a moment, the game felt all too familiar, like the Red Bulls were destined for another heartbreaking result.
The Red Bulls had no interest in reliving history though, choosing instead to step up with the most impressive performance in club history, rallying with five unanswered goals to blow away the Chicago Fire 5-2, and secure the Supporters' Shield.
Thierry Henry started the rally, belting a beautiful equalizer in the 24th minute. He calmly chested down a pass and struck a perfect shot into the top corner of goal, leaving Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson no chance.
The teams went into halftime even, but the second half was all Red Bulls. Ibrahim Sekagya bundled home a loose ball just four minutes into the half to give the Red Bulls a lead they never relinquished. Goals from Lloyd Sam and Eric Alexander, both set up by Peguy Luyinula, put the match out of reach and kicked off celebrations at Red Bull Arena.
The stunning victory left Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke near tears. A long-time player for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (the club's original name) and the Red Bulls, Petke had endured many of the club's biggest heartbreaks, but on Sunday he and the Red Bulls made sure a new chapter would be written for the club.
“This is a great moment for our franchise, for the players, for the staff, for the supporters especially," an emotional Petke said after the match. "It’s been a long time. A long time coming. These guys earned it. It doesn't matter what is written, it doesn't matter how we played in certain moments. These guys gave me everything they had this year."
Sunday's victory was a microcosm of the type of season the Red Bulls have had, with Henry providing a moment of magic, and several role players stepping up with outstanding performances, such as Peguy Luyindula.
"(It was a) great night," Henry said. "I think it's amazing for this club. For the fans, I guess they have been waiting for a very long time for that. Me too, since I've been here.
"It's a great night, I think we have to enjoy it and come back tomorrow, next week, and prepare for the playoffs."The victory secured the Red Bulls' first piece of major silverware in the club's history, and gave them the number one seed throughout the 2013 MLS playoffs.
The loss eliminated the Chicago Fire from playoff contention, rescuing the Montreal Impact, who qualified as a result. The Impact will face the Houston Dynamo in a play-in game on Wednesday, with the winner taking on the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"This is going to hurt for a while," Magee said after the match. "It's cool to score goals and all, but you play the game to lift the trophy. To kind of come that close, after so much work just to get ourselves back in a spot to have a chance at making the playoffs, to be honest is heartbreaking."The victory was a complete team performance for a Red Bulls squad that heads into the playoffs as favorites to win the club's first league title. With Henry and Tim Cahill among a cast of Red Bulls playing well, New York will be seen as a leading contender to lift a second piece of silverware.