As we continue to walk down memory lane during this COVID-19 pandemic, I remember the time when the New York Red Bulls were finishing up the 2013 Regular season as they won the club’s first-ever supporters shield.
That final week of the regular season was a nerve-racking moment, the build-up on the possibility for this club to win its first piece of silverware in a barren trophy case. Sure it was filled with a La Manga and an Emirates Cup, but those were tournaments during pre-season in Spain and preseason for Arsenal at their stadium in London.
You could feel the tension within the Tri-State Area as the week got shorter and shorter towards Sunday Afternoon, on October 27th, the Red Bulls opponent was the Chicago Fire, as they were looking to sneak a spot in the playoffs as well.
The streets of Harrison were filled with supporters who wanted to finally see magic and history being made for the very first time in their lives to see the Supporters Shield get lifted at the home of the Red Bulls. To be honest, so was I.
Taking pictures of my journey from my apartment to the parking lot, inside the halls of Red Bull Arena, to the press box and getting ready to see a regular-season clinching moment, as the club and the fans were ready for the biggest match in the club’s history.
The first moment that went against the Red Bulls was a sixth-minute goal converted from Mike Magee. After Luis Robles made a good save, he left a juicy rebound. Some would’ve felt that this moment was the start of something terrible, but for some strange feeling, it wasn’t going to be that type of day.
Then you saw the Red Bulls pushed for the equalizer, as they had waves of attacking runs headed towards Sean Johnson’s net. They finally got what they wanted in the 24th minute when Thierry Henry leveled the match at one apiece.
Peguy Luyindula looped a ball towards Henry as he chested it down near the Chicago area, then after a bounce, he smashed a volley that nailed the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
After the opening half was completed many had the feeling that the Red Bulls were about to stun the Fire and unleash their worst against them to claim the first trophy at that time was 18 years too long. As the second half began the Red Bulls continued their relentless attack.
In the 49th minute, Lloyd Sam was taken down from behind, which led to a free-kick near a dangerous area. While the original shot was saved, the rebound was free. While it looked like Tim Cahill was the one to punch it home, the last to touch it was Ibrahim Sekagya who was officially credited with the goal.
Then Luyindula went back to work to help both Sam and Eric Alexander tally their goals to ramp up the celebrations inside Red Bull Arena. First Sam who got a great ball from Luyindula in the 56th minute made a nice fake and cut to get into a better position to take a shot. Sam curled a beautiful ball towards the far post and that would be the game-winner.
Alexander in the 77th minute attacking the net made a couple of fake shot pumps while getting close, and then at the last moment took his chance to beat Sean Johnson to make it four. Johnny Steele would add the final goal on the Red Bulls side to make it five while Quincy Amerkwa added his consolation prize.
As the clock was ticking away inside second-half stoppage time, you can see from the South Ward the flags flying, the songs were sung aloud, the celebrations were well underway as the campeones song was starting to reverb around the arena.
Then referee Ismail Elfath looked at his watch, then blew his whistle to end the contest. Mike Petke was seen celebrating twice. First celebrating the 5th goal by Steele as Tim Cahill circled back to the bench and jumped into his arms, then after the final whistle, he hugged his coaching staff.
(My video when I was writing on the Red Bulls for Soccer Newsday in the Press Box)
Not one single supporter was leaving the Arena, the Shield went from the top row of the South Ward to the bottom row of the South Ward, then into the hands of the Red Bulls. In the first season of Mike Petke’s head coaching career, he did what no other head coach has done, bring silverware to the club.
Not Bob Bradley who got the MetroStars to the 2003 US Open Cup Final and lost, not Juan Carlos Osorio who got the Red Bulls to the 2008 MLS Cup Final and lost, or prominent names in US Soccer or World Football like Bruce Arena, Carlos Queiroz, or even his predecessor Hans Backe.
It was a legend of the club who was a player and at that time the head coach of the club who did the deed. For the two seasons, Mike Petke was the head coach was the most successful in club history at that time. He started the success of the regular seasons and it all came to life back in 2013.