Chicago Fire 1, New York Red Bulls 2 | MLS Match Recap
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The New York Red Bulls had to sweat it out at the end, but emerged with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire to claim the Supporters’ Shield for the second time in three seasons.
Knowing they needed to match FC Dallas’ result against the San Jose Earthquakes, the Red Bulls raced into a 2-0 lead by the 35th minute through goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan (penalty) in a commanding opening half.
However, a spirited performance from Chicago saw them push the the visitors all the way. Gilberto’s late strike set up a nervous finale for New York, who finish the regular season with an 18-10-6 record (60 points) following their first win in 15 attempts at Toyota Park. The result concluded a disappointing season for the Fire, whose 8-20-6 record (30 points) is a franchise low and confirmed their position as MLS’ bottom club.
Fire interim head coach Brian Bliss continued to experiment with his team for their season finale, giving an MLS debut to goalkeeper Alec Kann in place of Jon Busch. Top scorer David Accam also started on the bench.
Just minutes after a narrow offside call kept the Red Bulls from capitalizing on Kann’s early error in possession, Wright-Phillips put the Red Bulls in front to cap a well-executed set piece routine. Sal Zizzo got a head to a corner from the right side, flicking it into the path of the Red Bulls’ top scorer for a simple finish with no Fire defenders near him in the eighth minute.
The Fire nearly equalized on their first chance of note in the 18th minute, when a deft chest touch from Gilberto put him one-on-one with Luis Robles, who responded with a stunning reaction save to his right.
The visitors then doubled their lead in controversial circumstances when referee Ricardo Salazar ruled that Patrick Nyarko had fouled Grella in the 34th minute and pointed to the spot after a shoulder-to-shoulder tussle. Kljestan then kept his nerve on the penalty kick and slotted home low to the right with Kann going the opposite way.
The Red Bulls would have to lean on Robles even more in the second half as Chicago upped the pressure in their final game of the season. He had to turn away a stinging drive from Matt Polster in the 68th minute, and perhaps saved the Supporters’ Shield for New York in the 83rd minute when he denied Harry Shipp with the score at 2-1. Robles, who finished the game with four saves, was also bailed out by the post on a 73rd-minute volley from Accam that struck his left post and went behind.
The Fire fans did have something to shout about after a highlight-reel goal from Gilberto in the 78th minute that saw the Brazilian connect on an acrobatic scissor kick.
The Red Bulls move on to the Eastern Conference semi-finals as No. 1 seed, while the Fire will continue their search for a new coach during what promises to be a busy offseason for the club.