New York’s second half surge helps Red Bulls claim first major honor, end Chicago’s season

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Mike Petke’s team was even going into halftime, but the New York head coach was far from happy. One of the keys he’d tried to emphasis this week — the need to keep track of Chicago star Mike Magee — had failed to set in, with the Fire forward opening the game’s scoring with his league-leading 21st goal. Thierry Henry had pulled New York even before the break, but the intensity Petke took into the locker room made it clear. His team was about to get an attitude adjustment.

Four minutes into the second half, Ibrahim Sekagya gave New York the lead. Then came Lloyd Sam’s goal. Erik Alexander got behind the defense in the 77th minute, and Jonny Steele piled on six minutes from time, before Quincy Amarikwa consolation.. In the span of 45 minutes, a 1-1 game that was set to cost New York the Supporters’ Shield had turned into a rout, the Red Bulls’ 5-2 victory not only ending the Fire’s season but giving the New York club their first major honor.

The team had made it to one MLS Cup final, losing in 2008. They’d won the East two other times (2000, 2010) but failed to claim silverware. In 2003, they made it to the U.S. Open Cup final. Before Sunday, the most significant honors New York had ever won were regional (Atlantic Cups) or exhibitions (Emirates Cup). Yet after running Chicago out of Red Bull Arena in today’s second half, New York has claimed the 2013 Supporters’ Shield.

With that honor comes home field advantage throughout the playoffs, an achievement that’s particularly noteworthy when you consider the field New York’s had to hold off. Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake would all be worthy winners under other circumstances, and late in the season, the two-time defending champions (LA Galaxy) made a late push. But unbeaten in eight to close their campaign, New York surged to this honor, outscoring their opponents 8-2 over the season’s final eight days.

Petke deserves a huge amount of credit, and given the authority with which New York’s closed the season, expect the first-year boss to garner a lot of votes for Coach of the Year. Although he seems to be an underdog in that race (to Caleb Porter), the changes he’s instilled deserve just as much attention. Whereas in the Henry era New York has been a consistently good team that’s failed to reach its potential, Petke has the Red Bulls performing best when the results matter most, whether you’re looking at last month’s hamstrung draw in Seattle or today’s Shield-clinching performance. The young coach’s focus, passion, and intensity are evident throughout this team.

Jamison Olave’s come in to marshall the defense, Dax McCarty continues to be a rock in midfield, while Thierry Henry still reminds us that he’s the best player in Major League Soccer on those occasions that he wants to be. It will be Petke’s job to make sure Henry’s sees this year’s playoffs as his chance to cement his MLS legacy.

But more and more, Tim Cahill seems like the heartbeat of this team, with the Australia international playing a crucial role on the Sekagya goal that claimed today’s lead for good. At midseason, while Petke was working through issues with Henry, Cahill started producing, tossing aside concerns about his lack of production. The 34-year-old finished the season with 11 goals. Like his coach, Cahill will get some late consideration for postseason honors.

But after today, the honor that matters most to New York is MLS Cup, their dreams of claiming silverware having been fulfilled with today’s rout in Harrison. After 17 years with an empty trophy case, New York has finally claimed their first major honor, and while some time to enjoy the achievement has been earned, the quest for trophy number two starts next weekend. The Red Bulls will be the top seed in MLS’s playoffs.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says goodbye to the LA Galaxy

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has bid adieu to Major League Soccer, thanking the LA Galaxy for “making me feel alive again.”

The Swedish superstar averaged nearly a goal per game with the Galaxy, and was rumored to be in line for another two years at the club.

[ MORE: Columbus acquires Nagbe ]

Perhaps those reports, and maybe AC Milan’s struggles to score goals, have made more suitors come forward. Time will tell.

The Galaxy said the decision was a “mutual parting of ways” and thanked the player for his work both on and off the pitch.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“We would like to thank Zlatan for his contributions to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Since his arrival in 2018, Zlatan has positively influenced the sport of soccer in Los Angeles. We are grateful for his work ethic and passion. We thank Zlatan for his professionalism and immeasurable impact on the Los Angeles community and the soccer community in North America as a whole.”

Zlatan’s full thoughts, below, were a bit more Zlatanny.

Klein will have his hands full in replacing Ibrahimovic, who scored 52 times in 53 matches, but the Galaxy have always managed to bring in big names.

Getting a star playmaker is even more important as El Trafico rivals LAFC have rewritten the MLS record book and snared plenty of attention in California and across the league.

Columbus acquires Nagbe from Atlanta for $1M in allocation

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Darlington Nagbe is headed for a reunion with old boss Caleb Porter.

Columbus has sent over $1 million in allocation money to Atlanta United in order to claim the influential midfielder.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

Porter coached Nagbe at the University of Akron and the Portland Timbers, and has 25 USMNT caps but has turned down Gregg Berhalter’s requests for service.

Nagbe made 46 appearances across all competitions for the Five Stripes this season, scoring twice with five assists. He has 313 matches played between Portland and Atlanta.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Darlington Nagbe is a proven winner and the type of player who can be a difference-maker in our team,” Crew SC president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “In addition to his skill set, we believe that Darlington is someone whose character and values fit well within our organization. As we stated heading into this offseason, we continue to look both domestically and internationally for players that will make our team better, and we believe Darlington is an important part of those efforts.”

It’s a bold statement from Columbus, who had a reputation for getting the most of its talent under Berhalter but faded under Porter after a hot start. The Crew began 2019 with a 4-1-1 record but lost 13 of its next 15 matches.

Of course, being MLS, the Crew then only lost 2 of their final 13 matches. Shoulder shrug emoji.

NYCFC teen agrees move to Borussia Monchengladbach

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New York City FC’s impressive academy has earned one of the bigger transfer market payoffs in MLS Homegrown history, and will join the current Bundesliga leaders after next season.

Joe Scally, 16, is headed to Borussia Monchengladbach on a $2 million transfer with a sell-on clause, and will spend the 2020 MLS season with his boyhood club. Scally has played in the Open Cup, but has not debuted in an MLS match.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

The $2 million figure is on the edge of Top 30 for departing MLS players, according to Transfermarkt, just behind Cyle Larin’s move from Orlando City to Besiktas.

Scally appeared 11 times for the U.S. U-17 national team, going 90 minutes in all three matches and assisting on the lone American goal at the World Cup in Brazil.

From Borussia.de:

“Joe Scally is a top American talent who we have been following for a long time. We see a lot of potential in Joe and we are looking forward to him joining up with us in January 2021. Until then, we will work together with New York City FC to prepare him for his move to Germany,” said Borussia’s sporting director, Max Eberl.

Not sure just how long they could’ve been following a 16-year-old, but we digress.

Scally will join U-17 teammates Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Maximilian Dietz (Freiburg) on the books at a Bundesliga club. Recent U-17 call-ups Pablo Soares (Gladbach) and Noah Jones (RB Leipzig) are also with clubs in Germany’s top flight.

Last month, NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna told me that Scally was the perfect example of a young player trusting a club’s preference of changing his position.

“The perfect example is Joe Scally on the U-17 World Cup team. He came to us from a club in Long Island as an athletic box-to-box midfielder. He was very strong, but we saw him as an outside back. The lesson that we now we share that with our players, don’t get upset if you move to a position, but Joe Scally understood, never complained, he played wherever he was told to do, and now he’s a right back now, 16 years old going to the World Cup after being in our academy for two and a half years.”

Looks like it’s worked out.

Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

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