|Photo by Matt Kremkau
It's been a long time coming, but what we saw on Wild Card Wednesday was a club that was prepared, on point, and wanted to show the rest of the league that they are here and they are coming. And as much as we love to point out that Elias Manoel has Charlotte FC's number, it rang true again with his first hat trick with the club and becoming the first player in MetroStars & Red Bulls history to get that three-goal game in the playoffs.
He got the first goal with a looping ball from Daniel Edelman and attacked the Charlotte FC area, with a hard-slotted shot that hit the inside of the back post. The second goal was a beauty that Manoel told us he dreamed that goal in his sleep as he chipped the ball, and bent it inside the far post. But the third goal was the exclamation point, as he smashed it hard past Kahlina and sent Red Bull Arena into a frenzy. We had other great goals in between Manoel's as John Tolkin continues to improve his offense game.
After Adilson Malanda got booked for a hard foul, the Red Bulls received a free kick and Tolkin was selected to take it. He took it alright, a big free kick left-footed smash to the upper far 90, and celebrated to the far corner of the Arena along with his teammates. He assisted on Manoel's second goal and delivered a fantastic ball to Tom Barlow who converted his 2nd career playoff goal since the one-and-done at the Philadelphia Union in 2019.
Luquinhas & Edelman each earned two assists. It was a banner night for the club after their win and in victory at Geodis Park in Nashville Tennessee, and they had the best opening forty-five minutes this club hasn't had in a very long time. They were pressing, passing, and defending. When Charlotte FC did make a few attacking runs into the Red Bulls end of the pitch, Carlos Coronel made two spectacular saves to keep the opposition scoreless. When Referee Ismail Elfath blew his whistle for halftime, you could hear the South Ward chanting "WE WANT SEVEN!"
While Charlotte did try to chip away at the Red Bulls lead, we all know the home side scored right away to gain the three-goal lead back. What we saw out there was a club that was determined to make a statement. We saw former Red Bull players attending the match. current CBS Sports Serie A studio analyst Mike Grella, club legend, and current MLS Season Pass host Bradley Wright-Phillips celebrated walking out of the corridor to the locker rooms and BWP met me, to show his happiness.
For the first time in a long time, we haven't seen such a dominating performance from the postseason, and now this club has a date for the best two out of three matches against current Supporters Shield winners FC Cincinnati. Obviously, this time around Luciano Acosta will be on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, but maybe this club who just had two fantastic results to get into the playoffs and get off to a good start in it, could find a way to make this first round interesting. We shall see, but for right now it's a big win.