Underdog New York Red Bulls seize "chance to prove themselves" in winning second Supporters' Shield

Long-suffering fans of the New York Red Bulls (and their previous incarnation, the MetroStars) had to endure 18 agonizing seasons before capturing their first major piece of silverware in 2013.

The wait for a second trophy wasn’t nearly as long.

For the second time in three years, the New York Red Bulls have climbed the mountaintop to lift the Supporters’ Shield, once again topping the Chicago Fire on the season’s final day. The win also marked the franchise’s first-ever victory at Toyota Park, and sends New York into the Eastern Conference Semifinals, which begin November 1 at the home of a to-be-determined opponent.

In one of the more improbable feats in recent history, a Red Bulls side devoid of high-profile stars powered to the top of the MLS table under first-year head coach Jesse Marsch. An underdog at the season’s start, New York certainly heard from their detractors, but that doubt only served to fuel their rise to MLS supremacy.

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“There had been a lot of talk about the Town Hall and Thierry Henry and everything else, but they knew this was a transitional moment,” Marsch said. “It was a chance for them to prove themselves and show that this isn’t just about Thierry Henry, there’s a lot more here.”

Down the stretch, New York figured to have a favorable stretch of games as they closed out the season against the Eastern Conference’s bottom two sides. And yet, the bottom-feeding Fire had given the Red Bulls as much trouble as any team in the league in 2015.

“We had never won here for a reason,” said captain Dax McCarty. “Chicago always gives us a tough game when we come here and tonight was no different. It was nerve wracking at the end; they have nothing to lose so they were just throwing everything at us. You just have to grind it out, make it ugly and try to get through it.”

The Red Bulls were able to do just that as Shield contenders FC Dallas pushed them to the very brink, defeating San Jose 2-1 on the night to push them level on points with New York.

And as the door closes on the 20th regular season in Major League Soccer, the focus shifts to the postseason where New York will go in search of the ever-elusive MLS Cup. With the Shield in tow, the Red Bulls would own the right to host the final should they advance, as if this squad needed any more motivation.

“We’ve got five games left to win another title,” said midfielder Sacha Kljestan. “To put together the most points in the league over the course of the season is really the test of a true champion, but we have the big trophy that we want, and that’s MLS Cup. We’re going to keep going, we’re going to celebrate a little bit tonight, but we’re going to keep going.”