New York Red Bulls keep pace, but must face Atlanta United without BWP

HARRISON, N.J. – The hunt for the Supporters' Shield is on for the New York Red Bulls, even though their biggest match of the season will be played next weekend without a star striker.

The Red Bulls beat Toronto FC, 2-0, behind two second-half goals on Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, all but crushing the Canadian side’s hopes of repeating last year’s MLS Cup-winning run; RBNY also kept pressure on Shield leaders Atlanta United, though the Five Stripes ultimately remained four points in front of New York after a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake later Saturday evening.

Catching Atlanta became considerably more difficult in the 86th minute against Toronto, when forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, the team’s leading scorer (19 goals), was shown a yellow card. The ensuing accumulation suspension means he misses next Sunday’s match against Atlanta (1pm ET | ESPN - Full TV & streaming info).

“I miss the biggest game of the year next week,” said Wright-Phillips, who added he was "gutted" by that reality.

Wright-Phillips said he lost his cool and uttered some profanity at the linesman after his arm was getting pulled on by a Toronto defender. Referee Kevin Stott didn’t hesitate to pull out the yellow card, a decision the English striker clearly doesn’t agree with.

“It’s ridiculous man, it’s too big. We’re men. If you can’t take a swear word and what really happened then we’re in the wrong sport man, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “If someone said that to me, I wouldn’t even be like…I’d be like ‘Sorry, I missed.’ It’s a yellow card. The guy was having a nightmare all game. Nightmare.”

The incident partially overshadowed an evening when New York otherwise overcame adversity. Against Toronto, the Red Bulls survived some tactical struggles to slog through a match where Toronto kept things tight and compact, eventually breaking down the visitors twice in the second half.

“For us, any time you have an opportunity to pick up points, it is a priority," Tyler Adams told MLSsoccer.com. "I feel like now, at this point in the season, in the race for the Supporters' Shield, you have to think Atlanta is going to win out the rest of their games. So we have to win out to keep pace with them. The Supporters Shield is big, another opportunity to win a trophy.

“You have two opportunities to win trophies and you want to win both. Toronto did that last year for instance and I think we can match that.”

It was a sluggish and plodding first half from both teams, but eventually the Red Bulls found their momentum in the second. They finally broke through in the 70th minute off a goal from Alejandro Romero "Kaku" Gamarra, then doubled the lead in stoppage time via Derrick Etienne’s cool finish in alone on the goalkeeper.

The result means the Red Bulls still are very much alive to get hardware this regular season. And having won the Supporters' Shield twice since 2013, head coach Chris Armas acknowledged that he wants to capture the regular-season title, though this team is clearly just as focused on the big prize of MLS Cup.

"We're trying to keep pace, and there's a few trophies out there," Armas said. "As you cross one off your list [after being eliminated in the U.S. Open Cup] not so long ago, OK, there's the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. Any trophy out there we're trying to go for."