Red Bulls Clinch M.L.S. Regular-Season Title


The Red Bulls edged visiting Orlando City on Sunday to claim the Supporters’ Shield as Major League Soccer’s regular-season champion.

The Red Bulls took advantage of a rare stumble by first-place Atlanta United to leapfrog Atlanta in the standings and claim the top seed in the playoffs on a wild final day that also saw one of the league’s biggest stars, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, miss out on the postseason when his Los Angeles Galaxy blew a two-goal lead and lost at home.

The Red Bulls’ 1-0 victory over last-place Orlando and Atlanta United’s 4-1 humbling at Toronto, which missed the playoffs after winning the M.L.S. championship last season, gave the team its third Supporters’ Shield in six years and set a league record for most points in the regular season, with 71. The Red Bulls also won the Shield, awarded by fans to the team with the league’s best record in the regular season, in 2013 and 2015.

Derrick Etienne scored the only goal for the Red Bulls, atoning for a missed penalty kick in the first half by slotting in a low shot in the 53rd minute.

Dribbling left in the penalty area, Etienne dropped his defender by pulling the ball back to his right and firing a shot inside the right post. It was his fifth goal this season.

The Red Bulls (22-7-5) finished the regular season with five straight wins and a league-record 71 points, two more than Atlanta. They are the first M.L.S. team to compile 70 points in the regular season but are still seeking their first M.L.S. championship. The team, a founding franchise in M.L.S., has reached the title game only once, losing to Columbus in 2008. But Sunday’s win offered renewed hope that this, once again, could be the year.

“We are going after M.L.S. Cup,” Coach Chris Armas told exuberant fans at Red Bull Arena after the team’s latest milestone victory. “After 23 years, we are going after it.”

The Red Bulls and Atlanta United each earned a first-round bye in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In the Western Conference, Sporting Kansas City beat Los Angeles F.C., 2-1, to hold off Seattle atop the conference standings.

The Galaxy, which had hoped to claim the West’s final playoff spot with a win over Houston on their home field, seemed on their way when they took a 2-0 lead on two first-half goals by Ola Kamara. But Houston rallied with three goals after the break, and the loss allowed idle Real Salt Lake to claim the sixth spot in the West.

In Toronto, Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez scored on a penalty kick — his league-record 31st goal this season — to wrap up the M.L.S. scoring title. But Lucas Jansson (twice), Marky Delgado and Sebastian Giovinco scored for Toronto, allowing the 2017 league champions to end a frustrating season on a high note.

New York City F.C. clinched the third seed in the East with a 3-1 victory over visiting Philadelphia. Within the first 10 minutes, a Maxime Chanot header and a Philadelphia own goal staked N.Y.C.F.C. to a 2-0 lead. The day only got worse for the Union from there, as their goal scorer, Cory Burke, and his teammate Borek Dockal had to be separated after exchanging angry words after the halftime whistle.

The M.L.S. playoffs open with elimination games on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the East, the matchups were an N.Y.C.F.C.-Philadelphia rematch at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and fifth-seeded Columbus at No. 4 D.C. United on Thursday. The Red Bulls and Atlanta United will play the winners in two-leg series that begin on Sunday.

In the West, third-seeded L.A.F.C. will host Salt Lake on Thursday and fourth-seeded F.C. Dallas will play the Portland Timbers on Wednesday. Kansas City and Seattle will await the winners; their second-round series also will begin Sunday, with the second legs of each on Nov. 11.

The two-leg conference championship series begin Nov. 25, after the next FIFA international break. M.L.S. Cup is set for Dec. 8, at the stadium of the finalist with the highest regular-season point total.

Source : NYtimes