It feels like a lifetime ago rather than at the start of this season that New York Red Bulls fans were protesting the sacking of former manager Mike Petke. Yes, that all felt a world away at Toyota Park on Sunday night as New York celebrated the 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire which clinched them their second MLS Supporters' Shield title in the last three years.
A game which had all the potential for huge drama didn't really deliver, in large part thanks to Bradley Wright-Phillips. Although the Red Bulls began the game looking fairly nervous, he settled them down early when he opened the scoring with a tap in goal in the 8th minute.
Following a corner taken by Sacha Kljestan, Chicago had been attempting some sort of zonal marking. However, there was a wide open space in the center of the box, and after a flick-on header Wright-Phillips finished what should be the easiest goal of his career.
New York knew that with a vastly superior goal differential to their only Supporters' Shield competitors FC Dallas, all that was needed was to match or better the Hoops' result. With that knowledge in hand, New York kept attacking, searching for the victory which would clinch them their second ever piece of silverware.
Although they would soon get a second goal, they needed a superb save from goalkeeper Luis Robles to preserve their lead. In the 19th minute, Fire striker Gilberto was played clean in on goal but somehow could not beat the keeper, who made a terrific kick save.
In the 34th minute, the Fire were made to pay for not taking their chance when Patrick Nyarko took down Mike Grella in the box. Referee Ricardo Salazar did not hesitate, and immediately pointed to the spot. Kljestan stepped up confidently, and dispatched the spot kick to double New York's advantage.
In the second half, Chicago would turn the screw on the Red Bulls' goal as they looked to get back into the game. Matt Polster forced Robles into another terrific save in the 68th minute after he had a hit from distance. The onslaught continued in the 73rd minute when Polster clipped in a cross that met the foot of David Accam before ricocheting out off the post.
Chicago finally found the breakthrough in the 78th minute after Gilberto tucked away a true poacher's effort. Patrick Doody floated a deep cross to the back post, which Nyarko knocked down right into the path of the Brazilian, who made no mistake with his finish.
However, Chicago were unable to create another chance worthy of note, leaving the Red Bulls celebrating once the final whistle blew.
The result means that not only have the Red Bulls clinched the 2015 MLS Supporters' Shield, but they've clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will await the results of the midweek matches to know who they will play next weekend in the MLS Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Meanwhile, Chicago are left to ponder where it all went wrong. The club lost 20 matches this season and picked up a franchise low point total of 30 over the course of the year's 34 matches. Who will be playing and managing the club next season is still up in the air.