HARRISON, N.J. (October 18, 2015) - The New York Red Bulls clinched the top spot in the MLS Eastern Conference on Sunday afternoon with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena. New York got two goals from Mike Grella and one each from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kemar Lawrence to tie a franchise record for wins in a season.
Luis Robles made five saves in the win, and now sits alone atop the franchise all-time wins list, passing Tony Meola with his 49th career win. It was also Robles' 105th consecutive start for New York, extending his iron man run as he continues to close in on the longest such streak in league history, a run of 112 consecutive starts by Kevin Hartman.
With the victory, New York secures first place in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, avoiding the knockout round and guaranteeing home field advantage in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Red Bulls also keeps pace with FC Dallas in the Supporters' Shield race. The teams are now tied with 57 points heading into MLS Decision Day 2015.
New York is now 17-10-6 on the season. New York teams in 2000 and 2013 also reached 17 league victories. The Red Bulls close out the home portion of the schedule with the most home wins in franchise history. New York's 12-3-2 record at Red Bull Arena surpasses the previous club record of 11 wins, a mark the club achieved in both 2012 and 2013.
Grella kicked off the match with a bit of league history, taking the ball away from Philadelphia after the opening kickoff, charging in and putting the ball in the back of Andre Blake's net in just seven seconds, setting a new league record for fastest goal in MLS history. Grella scored a second faster than the previous record holder, former Red Bull Tim Cahill, who scored for New York eight seconds into a match at Houston almost two years ago to the day, on October 20, 2013.
Bradley Wright-Phillips doubled the advantage in the fourth minute, finishing off a corner kick from Sacha Kljestan that had been headed on by Damien Perrinelle. The goal is Wright-Phillips' 16th of the season. It also marks the 13th game-winner of Bradley Wright-Phillips' MLS career, tying him with Juan Pablo Angel for the second most game-winners in franchise history. Wright-Phillips is also now just one game-winner behind Thierry Henry for the franchise record.
With the assist, Kljestan now has 17 points in his last 18 matches - five goals and 12 assists. Kljestan has seven goals and 13 assists overall, putting him just one off the franchise record for assists in a season. That record is held by Thierry Henry and Eduardo Hurtando, who recorded 14 assists in MLS play in 2014 and 1998, respectively.
It was the first MLS assist for Perrinelle. The center back also has two goals in 26 appearances.
Grella's second came in the 17th minute. The winger took a pass from Dax McCarty on the left side of the box, cut back a defender and fired a shot that beat Blake at the near post for his ninth of the season. It was Grella's first multi-goal game of the year.
Kemar Lawrence got his first MLS goal in the 44th minute, finishing off a cross from McCarty, who had been played into the box by Lloyd Sam. Lawrence also has four assists to his name in 2015, all game winners. With two assists in the first half, McCarty set a new career high for assists with eight in 2015, surpassing his previous personal best of seven in 2007, his sophomore campaign with FC Dallas.
The four goals in a match tied a season high for New York. The Red Bulls scored four against New England, also a 4-1 win, on July 11 at Red Bull Arena.
With Sam's assist on the Lawrence goal, all four of New York's starting front four - Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kljestan, Grella and Sam, have tallied at least seven goals and seven assists this season.
Sebastien Le Toux got one back for Philadelphia in the 55th minute, finishing off a Union counter attack for his seventh of the season.
The Red Bulls travel to Chicago to close out the regular season with a match next Sunday, October 25, at 5 p.m. ET.
With home field advantage, New York will next return home to host the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday, November 8.