New York Red Bulls secured top spot in the Major League Soccer standings at the end of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Chicago Fire on Sunday, giving first-year coach Mike Petke plenty to celebrate ahead of the playoffs.
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”I feel like over the last two weeks, the pressure and stress I put on my shoulders, I feel like I can handle anything in life,” Petke said. ”It was a very emotional two weeks.”
Thierry Henry scored a goal in the first half and set up New York’s fifth goal in the 84th minute to help the Red Bulls get to 59 competition points, lifting them over Sporting Kansas City, which had 58 points. Real Salt Lake led the Western Division with 56 points.
It’s the first Supporters’ Shield for the Red Bulls, who will carry an eight-game unbeaten streak into the playoffs. They also secured a spot in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
”At 12 midnight tonight it will be a wonderful memory because we still have five games left.” Petke said. ”We’re going to refocus and get ready for the playoffs.”
Ibrahim Sekagya second goal of the season made it 2-1 in the 49th minute, and Lloyd Sam scored seven minutes later for a 3-1 Red Bulls lead.
”It shows we’re a team of tremendous character,” Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty said. ”It was a great performance. You score five goals in the last game of the season, it’s going to give you a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.”
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on Mike Magee’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.
Henry equalized in the 24th, when he controlled the floating pass with his chest and fired a shot from the top of the box into the upper right corner.
The New England Revolution qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 after beating the Columbus Crew 1-0 and Houston wrapped up a playoff spot for the third consecutive season with a 2-1 win over DC United.
At Columbus, Juan Agudelo scored midway through the first half to clinch the win for the Revolution, who needed to win their regular-season finale because Houston defeated D.C. United earlier in the day to also reach 51 points. New England moved from sixth in the Eastern Conference, one spot out of the playoffs, to third with the victory and will play Sporting KC next weekend.
At Washington, Boniek Garcia and Giles Barnes scored in the first half to help Houston finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and move into a knockout match against Montreal this week.
D.C. United was winless in its last 12 games and set the MLS record for fewest victories (three) in a season, breaking the previous mark of four set by Tampa Bay in 2001 and matched by Chivas USA in 2005.