Elias Manoel’s hat trick lifts Red Bulls to 5-2 Wild Card victory over Charlotte FC

Elias Manoel Red Bulls Charlotte FC
Elias Manoel celebrates his first of three goals during the Red Bulls’ 5-2 Wild Card win over Charlotte FC on Wednesday night at Red Bulls Area. (Photo courtesy of the New York Red Bulls)

HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls ended their four-match postseason losing streak in grand style on Wednesday night, defeating Charlotte FC 5-2 behind a historic Elias Manoel hat trick in the Eastern Conference Wild Card game, which kicked off the MLS Playoffs at Red Bull Arena. 

Manoel, who has now scored six of his eight career MLS goals against Charlotte, recorded a brace in the opening 45 minutes as a part of a three-goal first half. He secured a momentous hat trick — the first ever in the playoffs for a Red Bulls player and the sixth in MLS postseason history — in the 78th minute for New York’s fifth and final tally of the night to relegate a nagging Charlotte toward elimination.

“I’m really happy I scored the first hat trick of my career,” Manoel said through a translator. “I hope to score more goals — not just against Charlotte but for our team as we go further and further into the playoffs.”

“Elias is absolutely hitting his stride,” Lesesne said. “He was hitting it in June and July but then he got injured and that was unfortunate because I thought he was really building momentum… Now what you’re seeing… it’s really important to give him confidence.”

John Tolkin added a goal and two assists as he continues to flourish into a superstar for the red side of New York’s soccer scene.

The Red Bulls will now face the East’s No. 1 seed, FC Cincinnati, in the best-of-three first round of the MLS Playoffs

Manoel sparked the first-half masterclass in the 10th minute when he managed to play a lofted ball into the right side of the box by Daniel Edelman off his upper chest and down perfectly into his stride. A right-footed shot beat Charlotte keeper Kristijan Kahlina and tucked just inside the opposite left post. 

Goalkeeper Carlos Coronel kept New York’s advantage intact just two minutes later when he saved a close-range chance inside the box by Charlotte forward Enzo Copetti, turning away a low curling chance with the fingertips of his outstretched left hand. 

Tolkin doubled the host’s advantage in the 26th minute with a free kick from roughly 25 yards out, curling a left-footed effort inside the right post where Kahlina could only get fingertips before finding twine.

For Tolkin, who was celebrating his 100th appearance across all competitions for the Red Bulls, he became just the second defender in club history to score a goal in the postseason.

“I think he is absolutely hitting the right form and he’s getting more involved, and he deserves more credit for not only what he does against the ball, but what he does with the ball,” Lesesne said. “This free kick is just special, this has nothing to do with anything coaching, this is JMi again stepping up and creating a big moment.”

With Charlotte in disarray, Manoel grabbed his second in the 38th minute when he was played into the left side of the box by Tolkin, Unmarked, the Brazilian striker was able to turn, compose himself, and curl a right-footed effort home to ensure the rout was on.

But that didn’t mean Coronel wasn’t busy. As the Red Bulls seemingly turned off in first-half stoppage time, a scramble in front of New York’s goal squirted out to Charlotte’s Nathan Byrne inside the six-yard box. But Coronel made a lunging save with his legs to keep the Red Bulls’ advantage at three going into the break.

In remarkable fashion, Charlotte pulled one back in the 49th minute when Kerwin Vargas delivered a bicycle kick from the middle of the box off a Karol Swiderski centering header.

Tolkin helped ease the Red Bulls tensions after the shaky start to the second half in the 56th minute when he picked up his second assist. Played into the left side of the box by Luquinhas, he sent a first-touch low cross to an open Tom Barlow for the easy tap-in to restore a three-goal advantage. 

Luquinhas should have had one of his own and New York’s fifth in the 62nd minute when a Manoel flick played Omir Fernandez into a 2-on-1 rush. His pass over to Luquinhas was true, but the Brazilian midfielder’s shot rang off the left post. 

Two minutes later, Charlotte’s Patrick Agyemang powered his way through the harassment of defender Kyle Duncan and popped a shot over Coronel to bring the visitors back within two.

While the Red Bulls had their shaky moments dealing with Charlotte’s press, Manoel managed to put it beyond doubt in the 78th minute when he secured his hat trick. Played in alone down the left wing, he listed into the box and curled yet another elusive shot past Kahlina.

“Those three goals for me, they reflect on my career,” Manoel said. “When I look back at all the work that I do, it’s just becoming reality now.”

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