Photo by Mark Carosiello

Manoel's brace powers Red Bulls to victory in regular season finale

On a sunny afternoon in Harrison, the New York Red Bulls took the field at Red Bull Arena for the last time of the 2022 Major League Soccer regular season. Their opponent was the newest expansion club in MLS, Charlotte FC and with a playoff berth ensured, the Red Bulls needed a win to ensure their first-round match would be played at their home stadium.

The Red Bulls looked well-prepared from the opening kick-off, and it did not take long for them to take the lead. In the eighth minute of the match, the Red Bulls' leading goal scorer, Lewis Morgan ripped a long shot that forced Charlotte's goalkeeper, Pablo Sisniega to make a diving save. This left a rebound for Red Bull forward, Elias Manoel who then fired the ball into the net for his first Major League Soccer goal.

After taking the lead, the Red Bulls became too relaxed defensively and this forced their goalkeeper to make some great saves. The first big stop that Carlos Coronel made was in the 20th minute, when an opposing player took a curling shot that the 25-year-old jumped up to make a great diving save on. Coronel made another save in the 26th minute and then shortly before halftime, in the 39th minute, Coronel reacted well to a header off a corner kick, diving to keep it out at the right post.

Second Half Action in Harrison

Four minutes into the second half, a Charlotte FC player crossed into the six-yard box where striker Daniel Rios stuck out his leg and tried to flick the ball into the net, but it ended up drifting across the face of goal and out of play. Just six minutes later, Frankie Amaya won a 50-50 header in the attacking third, which sent the ball to his teammate, Manoel. With a defender on his back, Manoel dribbled and squared the ball up before cranking a right-footed shot that went into the upper-right corner of the net for his second goal of the match.

Manoel's second goal gave Red Bull a more comfortable lead and in the 70th minute, Gerhard Struber subbed off the goal-scorer for Patryk Klimala and Luquinhas for Wikelman Carmona. Klimala would have several great opportunities to add a third goal to the Red Bulls' lead, as well. The first of these came in the 79th minute, when Lewis Morgan dispossessed a defender inside Charlotte's 18 and passed to Klimala, who hit a one-timer that was barely swatted away by Charlotte's goalkeeper.

However, the Red Bulls would have one more shot on net in the 82nd minute. Right-back Kyle Duncan was dribbling on the right wing and faked out a defender. He then sent a hard cross in front of the Charlotte goalkeeper that deflected off a defender and right into the goalkeeper, but Sisniega reacted quickly to make his seventh save of the afternoon. When the final whistle blew, the crowd at Red Bull Arena had witnessed a shutout win and went home happy on Fan Appreciation Night.

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The Red Bulls had already locked up a playoff-berth before this game, but by winning they ensured that a playoff game will be played at Red Bull Arena for the first time since 2018. New York's opponent in the first round of the playoffs will be FC Cincinnati, who finished four points behind Red Bull in fifth place.

During the post-match press conference, Red Bulls manager, Gerhard Struber discussed his team's performance in this win and what preparing for next week's playoff game means to his club.

It's playoff time. It's different. It's a completely different [mentality for us] but this game gives us hope. This game gives us a very, very good feeling. We know right now; Cincy is our opponent at home. It's very, very dangerous opponent with an outstanding development in this season... but with a big investment and a big effort together, it's possible to step in the next round. And yeah, we will prepare the boys with a very good match plan and a mindset which will help us jump in the next round.

One thing that the Red Bulls improved at since the beginning of the season, is playing at home. Before the last five home matches of the season, they had posted a 3-5-4 record at home, but since they have won three of their last five home matches.

The big story of this match was Elias Manoel, the 20-year-old Red Bulls forward who had only played in six MLS matches coming into this one, managed to get not just his first but his first two goals of the season.

The Red Bulls hottest goal-scorer described what scoring his first MLS brace can do for his confidence going forward.

For me, that actually gave us a lot of confidence for myself and also for my team. As we all know this tournament now starts from zero. Now we're all moving forward and going for MLS Cup. - Elias Manoel

The Red Bulls will begin their record 23rd MLS playoff-run next Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:00 p.m. The match will be a single-elimination match against FC Cincinnati.

Stay with Jersey Sporting News for ongoing coverage of the Red Bulls playoff push.

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Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.