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RECAP: Red Bulls Punch their ticket to the playoffs, beat Nashville SC, 1-0

Photo Credit: Matt Kremkau
By Garry Redman

NASHVILLE, TN - After thirty-four matches, in the slimmest of margins, and at the death, they made the cut.

The Red Bulls were one of five teams vying for the two remaining spots in the Eastern Conference of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. Only two will make it. With a win and Montreal and Chicago dropping points, they will secure their place in the postseason tournament for the 14th consecutive season. Which is the longest active streak in all professional sports.

But to do that, they will have to get past a very tough Nashville SC squad, with their postseason ticket already punched, and are looking to end their season on a high note in front of their rabid fans in the Music City.

In the last two matches, the Red Bulls' victories were from the team having a hot start and sustaining it to the finish, but this time, they came out flat in the match's opening minutes. And it nearly cost them in the 16th minute when Alex Muyl looped the ball over to a wide-open Hany Muktar and took a shot, but Carlos Coronel made a fingertip save that struck the post. 

Red Bulls had a glorious chance in the 25th minute, as Luquinhas found Elias Manoel making an intelligent run toward the box, but Joe Willis was up to the task, snuffing out the attack with a save, though he bobbled the ball a bit before he secured it.

Frankie Amaya took a shot from a distance after a corner kick, but it went off-target and into the seats. 

Just before the first half ended, Nashville had one more attack. Fafa Picault took a pass from Walker Zimmerman and got the ball over to Jack Maher in the center of the box, but Coronel made the save, killing the attack. The first half ended after some lengthy extra time, lasting about nine minutes due to injuries, but now the Red Bulls had 45 minutes, plus stoppage time, to save their season.

Luquinhas dribbled the ball to the top of the box and was knocked down by * but managed to pass it to an open Cameron Harper, but his shot went wide, only to hit the side netting to his right. 

But the drama and desperation escalated as the match went into stoppage time. While the Red Bulls were fighting to keep their season alive, Charlotte won their match against Inter Miami, Montreal lost to Columbus, and NYCFC beat Chicago. As things stood out, they would not qualify for the playoffs. 

But then, fate would give Troy Lesense's team a hand as Luquinhas, once again, dribbled deep into the Nashville defense, only to be fouled by Anibal Godoy in the penalty area, giving a team a huge and much-needed lifeline.

John Tolkin converted the penalty kick shortly afterward, capping a dramatic finish to a regular season that was not to the supporters' expectations. Nevertheless, the mission was successfully completed, and they have earned to play one more match, but this time, they will be at home Wild Card match vs. Charlotte FC for the right to take on FC Cincinnati in the first round.

Starting Lineups:

Nashville SC: Joe Willis, Shaq Moore, Walker Zimmerman, Jack Maher, Daniel Lovitz, Randall Leal (Fafa Picault 32'), Sean Davis, Anibal Godoy, Alex Muyl (Shaffelburg 77'), Sam Sturridge (Teal Bunbury 77'), Hany Mukhtar

New York Red Bulls: Carlos Coronel, Kyle Duncan (Dylan Nealis 86'), Andres Reyes, Sean Nealis, John Tolkin, Omir Fernandez (Cameron Harper 57'), Daniel Edelman, Frankie Amaya (Dru Yearwood 72'), Luquinhas, Tom Barlow, Elias Manoel (Jorge Hurtado 86')

Scoring Summary:
90+4' - New York Red Bulls - John Tolkin (converted penalty)

Disciplinary Summary:
39' - New York Red Bulls - Andres Reyes - Yellow Card
45+2' - New York Red Bulls - Frankie Amaya - Yellow Card
45+3' - Nashville SC - Fafa Picault - Yellow Card
45+6' - New York Red Bulls - Sean Nealis - Yellow Card
70' - New York Red Bulls - Kyle Duncan - Yellow Card


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