HARRISON, N.J. (AP) — Mike Petke held the Supporters’ Shield up in front of the sellout crowd, and told the fans to enjoy the accomplishment by the New York Red Bulls.
This was one sweet victory for the first-year coach and former Red Bulls defender.
Peguy Luyindula had three assists and New York beat the Chicago Fire 5-2 on Sunday to finish with Major League Soccer’s best record.
“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.”
Ibrahim Sekagya scored early in the second half to help the Red Bulls (17-9-8) get to 59 points for the regular season, lifting them over Sporting KC, 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.”
Sekagya’s 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. Reserve Eric Alexander converted a breakaway chance in the 77th minute on a through pass from Luyindula.
Thierry Henry scored in the first half for New York, and set up Jonathan Steele in the 84th minute to make it 5-1.
“It shows we’re a team of tremendous character,” Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty said. “We could be down 3-0 and we’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting until the final whistle. 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 (14-13-7) took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on Mike Magee’s league-leading 21st goal of the season. Dilly Duka blasted a shot from outside the box that Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles dropped down to save. But the ball bounced out and Magee was there to knock in the rebound from six yards.
New York tied it in the 24th minute on a brilliant goal by Henry. Luyindula lifted the ball forward to Henry, who controlled it with his chest and fired a shot from the top of the box into the upper right corner. It was Henry’s 10th goal of the season.
“Thierry’s goal was so important, the timing of it,” Sam said. “The pressure would have mounted on us the longer it stayed 1-nil for them. Thierry’s was the best goal of the game.”
Quincy Amarikwa scored in the 90th minute for Chicago.
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