- Tolkin had a goal and two assists on the night, while Manoel had three
- The Red Bulls now reach a best-of-three series against FC Cincinnati
- DailyMail.com provides the latest international sports news
Without left-back John Tolkin, the New York Red Bulls wouldn’t have made it this far. The Chatham, New Jersey native converted a game-winning penalty in his final game of the regular season to reach this moment: the first Wild Card game of MLS’ new playoff format.
Tolkin played the hero role again tonight – scoring a goal and providing two wonderful assists in a 5-2 victory over Charlotte FC to advance to the best-of-three first round, where they will face FC Cincinnati. Striker Elias Manoel also earned star honors as he scored the club’s first ever postseason hat-trick.
Coming into this game, the Red Bulls snapped a streak of 14 consecutive playoff appearances, setting a new MLS record. But it would all be for naught if they couldn’t get past Charlotte on Wednesday night at their home venue, Red Bull Arena.
Charlotte FC entered this game on a hot streak, remaining undefeated in their last four games and beating Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami on decider day to reach the playoffs for the first time in the club’s short history.
Fans of “The Crown” made the long journey for this occasion – around 60 people took advantage of the club’s offer of a free ticket and a free bus ride to the game in New Jersey. They knew that regardless of the outcome, they would face a ten-hour drive in both directions.
John Tolkin (47) was a hero again, scoring a goal and two assists and beating Charlotte 5-2
Elias Manoel (11), who scored three goals into the net, was also in the spotlight
Within ten minutes, you could imagine that some of these fans were anxious about the journey ahead. New York midfielder Daniel Edelman won a header and flicked the ball over Charlotte’s defensive line and directly into Manoel’s path. The Brazilian took a ball off his chest, dropped it and then shot it past Charlotte keeper Kristijan Kahlina for the lead.
A crucial foul on the Red Bulls’ Brazilian dynamo, Luquinhas, gave New York a free kick from about 22 yards away in the 26th minute. Saturday’s hero, John Tolkin, stood above the ball and shot the ball perfectly into the top right corner to make it 2-0.
Just eleven minutes later, Tolkin scored his first assist of the evening. After rushing down the wing, he left a ball for Manoel. Nobody tried to cross the striker, who touched the ball and directed his shot over the goalkeeper’s body to make it 3-0.
Two key saves from RNBY goalkeeper Carlos Coronel ensured the hosts went into the dressing room with a comfortable lead.
At half-time it was clear that this was a completely different game to the last two meetings: a 1-1 draw and a 2-2 draw respectively. In the latter game, Charlotte scored a brace from winger Ben Bender, who was injured and missed that game. No doubt the club would have appreciated his services today.
But Charlotte proved they wouldn’t give up easily after the break – winger Kirwin Vargas scored the best goal of the night to make the game 3-1. After a set piece, Karol Swiderski crossed the ball into the penalty area – Vargas jumped up and did an overhead kick that stunned and silenced the floor.
Charlotte came out well in the second half – Kerwin Vargas scored on a bicycle kick
Manoel (11) kept his composure and scored the team’s first postseason hat trick in history
The hosts responded in a friendly manner. Luquinhas let the ball bounce over his head and dropped his shoulder around the defender. He ran across the pitch and passed the ball to Tolkin, who crossed it into the middle for striker Tom Barlow. He only needed one touch to direct the ball into the net and the score was 4-1.
With this assist, Tolkin set a new club record for the most assists by a homegrown player in a season in all competitions. The man he passed is USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams.
Charlotte was able to catch up again by the 64th minute. A long ball from goalkeeper Kahlina bounced into the path of substitute Patrick Agyemang.
The physically imposing striker was able to muscle past Red Bulls full-back Kyle Duncan and somehow found the composure to poke the ball over Coronel as he was dragged to the ground to make it 4-2.
But the evening really belonged to the Red Bulls – and Manoel in particular. Luquinhas found his compatriot on the wing in the 78th minute and had time and space to dribble, collect himself and then fire a shot into the net. 5-2 New York.
It was his third goal of the night, the sixth hat trick in MLS Cup Playoffs history and the first playoff hat trick in team history.
After a season filled with controversy, managerial firings and general turmoil, the New York Red Bulls were able to achieve something they would not have expected just six months ago. Now they have the chance to shock the Supporters Shield winners and take their miracle run even further.