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Is Atlanta's stiffest Supporters' Shield challenge from the Big Apple?

BRONX, N.Y. — New York City FC’s pragmatic 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium Sunday night was important on two fronts for the Cityzens, and maybe even three.

It definitively pushed them ahead of their rivals into second place in the Eastern Conference, and likely erased any mental block about beating the Red Bulls for new coach Dome Torrent after a pair of 4-0 defeats earlier this season. 

And just maybe, it also catapulted NYCFC back into the Supporters' Shield conversation.

With 40 points through 20 games, Atlanta United lead that race. NYCFC are six points back with two games in hand, and the Red Bulls trail by eight points having played three fewer matches.

Out west, FC Dallas and LAFC are both ahead of NYCFC in the race. And Sporting Kansas City sit a point in front of the Red Bulls. 

The top six teams in the Supporters' Shield race following Week 19 | MLSsoccer.com

But there’s no debating the quality of wins the Red Bulls have. They’ve beaten Atlanta, NYCFC and FC Dallas with games still left against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (7 pm ET | TV & streaming info) and LAFC. Both are at Red Bull Arena, where the Red Bulls are 6-1-1 this season. 

NYCFC twice drew Atlanta, dominating a 1-1 affair in the Bronx in Patrick Vieira’s final game in charge. They also have beaten FC Dallas, took a rare point from LAFC at Banc of California Stadium and defeated SKC at Children’s Mercy Park to open the season. 

So it begs the question: Are the three most likely teams to win the Supporters' Shield all in the East? 

Both New York coaches pumped the brakes on that talk in their post-game press conferences Sunday night. 

Toronto locked up the 2017 Supporters' Shield on the final day of September, but typically there's been more late drama. | USA Today Sports Images

Chris Armas, who took over for Jesse Marsch on Friday, has been around MLS since the league’s inception and believes there’s too many games left in the season for any team, or pack of teams, to emerge yet. 

“I think it’s still here,” Armas said. “There’s teams here, Columbus, there’s teams there you put together a few wins and they’re right there again. And if you drop too many points you realize you get caught in that pack. 

“I know it was a big game in terms of points today — its right there in the standings, one point separated us. But we’re looking ahead, we’re looking now up at New York City and Atlanta. A lot to play for obviously.”

Torrent only coached his third MLS game Sunday after spending the last 11 years as Pep Guardiola’s assistant coach. In a short period of time here, Torrent realizes the race isn’t already decided like it was for Manchester City in the English Premier League this past season. 

Using his first three games as an example, Torrent said the different styles of play he’s seen makes MLS a difficult league to dominate. 

“The teams are not the same because Toronto when they defend, they defend inside and the space was outside all the time. Chicago, when our outside backs go, the winger follows him and the space is inside,” Torrent said. “And against the Red Bulls, they make high pressing all the time and they finish in diagonal, the space is outside.

“When you analyze these teams, it’s three different teams. But all of them have quality to win. I think MLS is even all the time because Chicago is able to win, the Galaxy is able to win, New York City is able to win, Toronto and Red Bull. It’s very interesting for MLS, very interesting because maybe every year change the champions.” 

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