Red Bulls take control of Eastern Conference with win over Crew

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

NYRB's victory, combined with an NYCFC loss and Toronto draw leaves the Red Bulls atop the East.

The New York Red Bulls effectively sealed the Eastern Conference title on Sunday with a 3-2 victory over Columbus Crew SC.

New York City FC imploded on the road, losing 3-1 to red-hot D.C. United, while Toronto FC needed a late goal to salvage a draw on the road against the Montreal Impact. Those dropped points, combined with the Red Bulls' victory, leaves the Red Bulls three points clear for NYCFC atop the East. The Red Bulls have one more victory and a plus-13 edge on goal difference over their New York neighbors, a nearly insurmountable difference to make up with only one match to play. 

Mike Grella opened the scoring for the Red Bulls in the 53rd minute and Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his first of two goals five minutes later, but New York took its foot off the gas toward the end of the match. Adam Jahn got a goal back for Columbus in the 73rd minute and Harrison Afful scored 10 minutes later to make the Red Bulls sweat out the result.

Wright-Phillips now has 21 goals this season, the same as David Villa, who scored a consolation goal for NYCFC from the penalty spot on Sunday.

D.C. United scored three goals in the first half to bury the spirit of NYCFC, which entered the match as MLS' best team on the road this season. Patrick Mullins had a goal and an assist in addition to goals from Bobby Boswell and Rob Vincent. Lloyd Sam tallied two assists.

Montreal kicked off its match against Toronto FC with Didier Drogba nowhere in sight after a reported disagreement with the club and coach Mauro Biello. Ignacio Piatti scored once in each half (once from the spot), but an 86th-minute goal from Tosaint Ricketts earned Toronto a point in Sebastian Giovinco's first match since August 27. Jozy Altidore tallied a goal and an assist. The draw was enough to clinch a playoff berth for Montreal.

The Philadelphia Union failed to officially clinch a playoff berth with a 2-0 loss at home against Orlando City, but the New England Revolution's 2-1 road loss to the Chicago Fire leaves the Revs three points behind Philadelphia for the final playoff berth in the East but with a nearly impossible goal difference (12-goal swing) to overcome.