After seventeen seasons filled with failure, underperformance, and heartbreak, the New York Red Bulls have finally rewarded their long-suffering fans with their first major title. With a 5-2 thrashing of the Chicago Fire in front of a sold-out crowd, the Red Bulls achieved the best record in MLS, securing the Shield in their 18th season to fill their previously empty trophy case.

While the team had played down any potential pressure they felt leading up to the game, things got off to the shakiest—and most "Metro"—of starts. Six minutes in, Chicago's Dilly Duka took a long range shot that goalkeeper Luis Robles couldn't fully bring under control. Former RBNY striker Mike Magee pounced on the parried rebound, smashing a goal right in front of NY's supporters. With NY needing a full three points to secure the Shield, it seemed like it might be a long, tense night.

The tension, thankfully, wouldn't last. With Peguy Luyindula playing in midfield, he sprayed a long pass to Thierry Henry. The captain chested the ball, let it take a bounce, and struck a picture-perfect volley that pinged off the underside of the crossbar and in. New York was back in the game, and needed to find just one goal more.

But the Red Bulls put on a statement performance, finding four goals from four more different players.

A goal-line scramble after Dax McCarty put his head on a free kick saw the ball trickle over the line to put RBNY in the lead. The goal was originally given to Tim Cahill, but was later awarded to Ibrahim Sekagya.

A perfect counter-attack started with Luis Robles throwing long to Luyindula, who darted upfield and fed Lloyd Sam. Sam cut the ball back to fake out Gonzalo Segares, and curled a lethal left-footed shot in to score what would end up being the game winner. It was his fifth goal of the season on just seven shots, which will likely earn the winger a spot in the MLS record books for highest scoring percentage.

Another play started by Luyindula (he ended the night with three assists and Man Of The Match Honors) pulling the ball off former RBNY midfielder Joel Lindpere and springing Eric Alexander down the wing. When Alexander found his way into the box, he stared down Sean Johnson and waited what seemed like an eternity before smashing it to the far post.

Last but not least, Thierry Henry lost his defender, and put a bouncing cross across the box to find Jonny Steele, who has no difficulty beating Johnson to send the scoreline to 5-1. With a scoreline so wide that even one of New York's trademark collapses couldn't reverse it, the party had begun in Harrison. Even Quincy Amerikwa scoring a consolation goal for Chicago with the game entering stoppage time wouldn't dampen the mood.

Full highlights from the match:

The celebration afterwords was the sort you'd expect after nearly two decades of frustration, and of a franchise that was considered by some to be cursed. Grown men cried. Fireworks went off. A pitch invasion was averted thanks to a tremendous amount of security on the fringes of the field. And when the Shield was lifted in front of the South Ward, it was not team captain Thierry Henry, or "Captain Clutch" Tim Cahill who were holding it, but coach Mike Petke, equipment manager Fernando Ruiz, and his son Sean - all with deep connections to the franchise, who have stood with the club through countless bad seasons.

With the honor of hoisting the Shield comes some extra perks. First, the team qualifies for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League for only the second time (they qualified but crashed out miserably in 2009-10), allowing them into the international club competition that could lead them to the FIFA Club World Cup. Second, the team receives additional allocation money from MLS as a bonus for qualifying for the CCL, which will help with any potential roster moves necessary in 2014. Lastly, the team is the top seed throughout the MLS Playoffs, ensuring home field advantage throughout the competition, including hosting the MLS Cup should they make it that far.

Those playoffs are next on the agenda for Mike Petke's side, as the team will return to work later this week to begin preparation. They will await the result of the Eastern Conference Wild Card game to discover their opponent (Houston hosts Montreal on either October 30th or 31st). The Wild Card will host the first leg of the Conference Semifinals on November 2nd or 3rd; the Red Bulls will host the home leg on November 6th or 7th.

Even if the playoffs ultimately bring disappointment, it's hard to not judge the 2013 campaign a success. A roster that in past years seemed soft instead showed spine and a reluctance to give up. A locker room that, in the past, suffered from frequent clashing of egos came together as one. A coach with no experience inspired his squad. And a club that had frequently misstepped when trying to connect with area fans rewarded those that stood by them with vindication, even as other teams start to creep into their turf.

As the cliché goes, New York loves a winner. In a year where most NYC sports teams have stumbled, the Red Bulls have finished on top of their league. For now, at least, New York is red.


Mike Petke on bringing the club its first hardware: "This is a great moment in our franchise, for the players, for the staff, for the supporters especially. It’s been a long time, it’s been a long time coming, and these guys earned it. It doesn’t matter what’s written, it doesn’t matter how we played in certain moments, these guys gave me everything they had this year to end the season. I’m at a loss for words. As a professional, aside from my family life and personal life, I’m talking about my career as a player and a coach, this is by far to now the best moment because of what it means to this organization, these supporters and us. Like I said out there, once twelve midnight strikes tonight, it’s a wonderful memory come twelve midnight tonight because we still have five games left and we’re going to be refocused and we’re going to be ready for the playoffs."

Tim Cahill on the team's character: "This is a team, time and time again we’ve needed the essence of every single player to put their heart and soul on the line and it’s proved for this league. The teams that have won the supporter’s shield year in, year out it’s because they’re a team and that’s what we’ve shown this year. I’m pretty proud and it was a special moment for me as well."

Lloyd Sam on his goal: "All my friends that know me, know that's one of my favorite moves, like to fake to cross or to fake to shoot and cut in. They call it the Lloyd Sam Chop. So honestly, they know I would've done that in that situation. It normally works. I just thought, let him come, fake to shoot, and then he opened up. I haven't even seen it again, I'd like to seen it again. Not a better game to score it in."

Dax McCarty on the second half: "Second half it’s just a performance that I’ll never forget. We come out and it seemed like every attack we were going to score a goal. That’s a credit to our attacking players and it’s a credit to our mentality. When we’re at home, we know that we’re the team that has to be on the front foot and let’s give credit to Chicago, they were fighting for their playoff lives and in the first half they definitely went toe-to-toe with us, but I thought we just had too much passion and too much commitment to win the Supporters’ Shield and I don’t think they could hang with us."

Thierry Henry on what made the team different in 2013: "Everyone had to step up at one point, and we did, we did it as a team. At one point, [defender Jamison] Olave was scoring goals for fun at the very beginning, and you were like, what?! And then, suddenly, I started to score a bit. And then Lloyd came at the end. And then Tim finished the season in an amazing way. Luis - forget about him, today at 1-1 he made an amazing save. The team performed. Not having a go at anybody, but last year, for example, if Kenny Cooper didn't score or I didn't score, it would have been game over. And years before, if we don't have Luke Rodgers and me scoring, then it would have been over. Sometimes I can have an off day, and Tim is taking control of the game, or Lloyd in Kansas City, or Dax scoring the winner against Salt Lake. I think the team performed this year as a team."