The Red Bulls knew they wanted to get off to a great start in this last home match of the regular season and it's not just after a disappointing loss in Toronto over the mid-week, but the Philadelphia Union found ways to beat them at home twice this season earlier in the season and that US Open Cup Quarterfinal that ended in penalties.
But right out of the gate it was Mike Grella who caught the Union napping at the kickoff and converted the fastest goal in league history seven seconds in. After Ismail Elfath blew the opening whistle it was a backpass by Cristian Maidana who saw Michael LaHoud open and LaHoud let the ball go and out of nowhere Grella gets on top of it.
The only attacker going towards net Grella rips his chance that did take a deflection off of LaHoud and past Andre Blake for the opening goal inside the near post & Red Bull Arena erupted before a single fanny was sitting down. He earned his second of the match in the 17th minute as Grella goes near post again to beat the young Jamaican International.
Captain Dax McCarty goes down the middle of the field and makes a solid pass to Grella at the near side. When he is marked by the defender, once again the magic feet of Grella fakes out his man and converts a fantastic ball for his second of the match and the Red Bulls are flying high in this match up looking for revenge.
In between Grella's goals was a fantastic header by Bradley Wright-Phillips who made it two goals to nil at the time, converted three minutes later after Mike's first of the match. A corner was awarded to the Red Bulls at the far side and when Sacha Kljestan delivered it to the near it went towards Damien Perrinelle who headed the ball at BWP and then a half swing with the right foot finish to bring the Red Bull fans to their feet.
One of Ali Curtis's targets during the beginning of the season was Jamaican Left Back internation Kemar Lawrence as Roy Miller picked up an injury after the opening season match at Sporting Kansas City and he hasn’t looked back at all. He's had several chances to convert a goal and finally this match against Philadelphia Taxi picked up a fare.
After a bit of an give and go with Lloyd Sam & McCarty it was Dax rounding off the far side from the defenders and when he crossed the ball behind that back line, Lawrence comes towards the near post and deposits his first goal in MLS and beats his countryman for a four goal thrashing. Even though Sebastien LeToux pulled one back the Dark Blue & Gold was never coming back from this result and the New York Red Bulls clinch the Eastern Conference top spot in the playoffs and now have to finish strong next Sunday in Chicago.
"I'll take this start most days, I think there are a number of things (talking about the start against Toronto Mid-Week). We weren't happy there, there was no sense of panic from our team. That's not the way we want to play and the guys knew that." Said Jesse Marsch, "This is a tough place to play for opposing teams & there was no sense of panic from our guys. It was a solid win"
With this victory the New York Red Bulls not only clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but they will make a return to the CONCACAF Champions League & there is a sense from some of the players that were here last year that they want to take it seriously and have a solid run in the group stage.
But there is still one more game to be played and that is a road trip to Chicago and take on the Fire and if they get the full three points on the road, no matter what happens later in the day with FC Dallas, the Red Bulls will earn the supporters shield with a win. A Draw or a loss will allow FC Dallas to try and earn it themselves.
But for now, soak up the victory and get ready next Sunday to try and take the Shield if the Red Bulls can.