HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls, formerly the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, have earned two Supporter’s Shields. It is the only hardware they have earned in their 22-year history. Around the world, this is the ultimate prize during the season. This disc-shaped trophy goes to the team with the most points for the season. It’s not unlike the Meisterschale of the German Bundesliga. But it is forced to take a backseat to the MLS Cup.
There are only two games left in the regular season. The Red Bulls have punched their ticket to their ninth straight post-season, this time with a bye in the first round. RBNY has already earned more points than in either shield-winning season. They are only one point behind Atlanta United. So the question is: do they have what it takes to edge out the Kings of the South?
Call-ups and Injuries
Six Red Bull players are heading to national team duty during the International Break. Two players from Atlanta United are doing the same. While national team call-ups are an honor, the concern is always player safety while they are away. Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron has already been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season with injury. Tyler Adams withdrew from the USMNT to deal with back spasms.
Both teams left on Atlanta’s schedule have been eliminated from the playoffs (Chicago Fire and Toronto FC). The only thing they can do is spoil the party for the Five Stripes. As for RBNY, they face the Philadelphia Union, who have clinched a playoff spot, and Orlando City, currently in last place. Union eliminated RBNY from the US Open Cup, only to falter against the Houston Dynamo.
Down to the Wire
Last year, Toronto FC clinched the Shield three weeks before the end of the season. This year’s race may not be decided until the last match. Neither team can afford to relax, even with the playoffs looming. It will be a mental test as well as a physical one. Who will be hoisting the 2018 Shield?
The only predictable thing about MLS is its unpredictability.