MLS Decision Day Recap: Red Bulls win Shield, playoffs set

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By Ryan Brister

After ten games on a wild final Sunday, Major League Soccer’s regular season has come to an end. The New York Red Bulls left Chicago with the Supporters’ Shield, while Seattle, Portland, and Kansas City wrapped up their playoff places. MLS’s first decision day featured tension worthy of all the branding.

Supporters’ Shield Race

MLS’s decision to schedule the two relevant games simultaneously paid off with some late drama. The New York Red Bulls survived the pressure and won the Shield for the second time in three years.

Chicago Fire 1-2 New York Red Bulls

Things got very, very nervous, but the Red Bulls held on to an early lead and claimed the Supporters’ Shield on goal difference. A set piece put them in front nine minutes in, from Sacha Kljestan’s corner kick to Sal Zizzo’s head to Bradley Wright-Phillips’ tap-in. Mike Grella earned a penalty and Kljestan scored it to improve things for New York. The Red Bulls sat back in much of the second half, and eventually Chicago’s pressure created a crack. Gilberto scored for the Fire, leading to a nail-biting finish. Robles and the defense came up with big stops to hang on.

FC Dallas 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes

There was disappointment for both sides as Dallas defeated San Jose. Things were looking up for San Jose when Quincy Amerikwa opened the scoring in the 13th minute; at the time it had the Quakes above the red line. But things went south from there. Mauro Diaz equalized before halftime, and after Matias Perez Garcia was sent off, Victor Ulloa scored to give Dallas three points. That would not be enough, however, given the result in Chicago.

Western Conference

The Western Conference was significantly more muddled than the East at the start of the day. After the dust settled, this is what the playoffs will look like in the West.

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Sporting Kansas City 0-2 Colorado Rapids

A wrench was thrown into the already complicated Western Conference scenarios when Sporting Kansas City tripped up at home against the Colorado Rapids. Despite dominating in terms of possession and shots, SKC allowed two big counters late. First, Dillon Powers gave Colorado the lead on a breakout in the 78th minute. Sam Cronin was sent off shortly thereafter, but 10-man Colorado grabbed another goal through Marcelo Sarvas.

Sporting Kansas City 2-1 LA Galaxy

That added some extra drama to Kansas City’s final game. The possibility remained for SKC to miss the playoffs entirely, and for 25 minutes they were staring at just that. Kevin Ellis pushed them above the red line in the 38th minute, and Dallas lent a helping hand at about the same time. Robbie Keane equalized in first-half stoppage time.

But the second half belonged to SKC, and while they ultimately wouldn’t need the three points, they won the match via a Dom Dwyer goal in the 65th minute. SKC will once again head on the road for the knockout round.

Portland Timbers 4-1 Colorado Rapids

An early hiccup was steamrolled over as Portland cemented their place in the playoffs. Darlington Nagbe gave them an early lead with a free kick in the 5th minute. Dominique Badji equalized in minute 13. But after that, the matched belonged to the Timbers. Nagbe scored his second later in the half. Jorge Villafana and Fanendo Adi added goals after halftime, and the Timbers will be in front of their home fans in midweek.

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Real Salt Lake

Seattle had no interest in letting the doubt linger. They jumped ahead early and coasted to a victory that secured their place in the playoffs. Clint Dempsey got an assist from Obafemi Martins to score in the fifth minute. Dempsey assisted on Marco Pappa’s goal five minutes later, and scored his second in the 20th. Luis Gil got a late goal for RSL, but the visitors didn’t put up much of a fight.

Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 Houston Dynamo

After a dull first half, Vancouver handled their business against Houston and now find themselves avoiding the knockout round. Kekuta scored the biggest of his seven goals this year with a powerful, low shot from outside the box just before the hour mark. Kendall Waston, who scored on a corner kick last year to put the Whitecaps in the playoffs, repeated the feat to double their lead on Sunday. Robert Earnshaw iced things in stoppage time.

Eastern Conference

In the East, the big stories of the day were in Columbus and Canada. Here’s how the playoffs are set: PlayE

Columbus Crew SC 5-0 DC United

The Crew secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a dominant home victory over DC. Jack McInerney scored the only goal in the first half, but the floodgates opened after halftime. Ethan Finlay had two of Columbus’ four second half goals, and could have had more if not for Bill Hamid. In an important game for DC, they were worse than lifeless.

Montreal Impact 2-1 Toronto FC

Montreal claimed third place in the East and set up a rematch against their rivals. Sebastian Giovinco made his closing argument for the MVP award with an assist to Jozy Altidore on Toronto’s goal late in the first half. But Didier Drogba upturned the match with a quick brace of nearly identical goals in the second half. Drogba would later leave the field with what looked like a scary injury, but returned to play and nearly picked up a hat trick.

New York City FC 1-3 New England Revolution

New England needed just a point to secure their playoff spot, but they went ahead and grabbed all three. Lee Nguyen opened the scoring on decision day with a goal very early in the match. Later in the first half, having already hit the bar and notched an assist, Charlie Davies doubled the lead. Kelyn Rowe scored on a header in the second half, and David Villa scored a late penalty as consolation.

Philadelphia Union 1-0 Orlando City SC

It was always going to be a steep climb for Orlando to reach the playoffs, but it all went wrong for the Lions on decision day. OCSC picked up seven yellow cards and one red in an ugly loss to the Union. Sebastien Le Toux buried a penalty for the game’s only goal late in the first half.