HARRISON, N.J. – After 18 long years, the New York Red Bulls finally have a league championship to put in the trophy case.
The Red Bulls scored five unanswered goals to rally from an early deficit on Sunday evening for a 5-2 rout of the Chicago Fire in front of a capacity crowd of 25,219. The win gave the long-suffering New York franchise the Supporters' Shield and ended Chicago's hopes of returning to the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The hosts endured a nightmare start to the match, as Mike Magee scored his league-leading 21st goal of the season on a rebound after Luis Robles parried a strike from Dilly Duka in the sixth minute. It was almost all New York after that.
Knowing they needed a win to claim their first trophy, the Red Bulls piled on the pressure, and Thierry Henry netted a stunning strike in the 24th minute that hit off the underside of the crossbar to pull the hosts level. The French superstar chested down a chip from Péguy Luyindula – who recorded three assists on the night – and looped the ball over Sean Johnson on a fantastic half-volley.
New York knocked on the door for a go-ahead goal before the break but had to wait until a scramble in the box four minutes after halftime to find it.
Ibrahim Sekagya was credited with the strike that put the Red Bulls ahead in the 49th minute after a Dax McCarty header was saved by Johnson but not cleared inside the six-yard box. Tim Cahill got a foot to it before the Ugandan defender poked it into the goal.
Lloyd Sam then scored what held up as the eventual winner in the 56th minute, cutting inside of Gonzalo Segares before unleashing a gorgeous left-footed curler that Johnson could do nothing about.
The Red Bulls scored twice more in a span of seven minutes to put the game out of reach. Second-half substute Eric Alexander fired one in from close range after being played in on goal by Luyindula in the 77th minute before Jonny Steele punctuated the victory with an easy finish following a cross-field pass from Henry in the 84th.
Quincy Amarikwa netted a consolation goal for Chicago in the first minute of stoppage time after heading in former Red Bull Joel Lindpere's corner kick.
The result clinches the top seed throughout the playoffs for New York, who will find out their Eastern Conference semifinal opponent – and where they will travel for the first leg next weekend – based on the result of the midweek Knockout Round contest between Houston and Montreal. As Shield winners, the Red Bulls also clinched a berth in the 2014-15 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Chicago, meanwhile, will watch the postseason from home despite going unbeaten in four of their final five games.