Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls captured the Supporters’ Shield for best regular-season record on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on the final day of the campaign.
The Red Bulls claimed the honour for the second time in three years, but this time they had to do it without the likes of departed French star Thierry Henry, and under the guidance of first-year coach Jesse Marsch.
The victory gave the Red Bulls 60 points. FC Dallas also finished on 60, but New York lifted the prize courtesy of superior goal difference.
The Shield brings home advantage throughout the play-offs, which means the Red Bulls would host the MLS Cup to decide the league champions on December 6 if they advance to the final.
Bradley Wright-Phillips couldn’t match last year’s Golden Boot-winning haul of 27 goals but led the Red Bulls with 17 and Sacha Kljestan, who converted a penalty against the Fire, had 13 assists.
“We’ve got five games left to win another title,” Kljestan said. “To put together the most points in the league over the course of the season is really the test of a true champion, but we have the big trophy that we want, and that’s MLS Cup.
“We’re going to keep going, we’re going to celebrate a little bit tonight, but we’re going to keep going.”
The MLS Cup play-offs begin this week, with single elimination knockout round matches from each conference on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday DC United will play Eastern Conference rivals the New England Revolution and the Seattle Sounders will take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in the West.
The Galaxy are the reigning MLS Cup champions, but they dropped a 2-1 decision at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and must now beat the Sounders in Seattle to keep their hopes of a sixth MLS Cup crown alive.
On Thursday, the Montreal Impact host Toronto FC and the Portland Timbers face Sporting Kansas City.
The Red Bulls and Eastern Conference second place team Columbus Crew and the West’s top two, FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps, have first-round byes.
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