As the 2023 MLS season ended, the New York Red Bulls found themselves in familiar territory: playoff bound, but by no means the favorite. At the same time, FC Cincinnati finally traded in the wooden spoon for the silver plate. Not only had they secured their first ever MLS playoff spot, they did so with the 2023 Supporter’s Shield in their hands. Now these adversaries will face off in a best-of-three series on the way to the 2023 MLS Cup.
RBNY, FCC Face Off in a Best-of-Three Series
FC Cincinnati: Up for the Challenge?
For a team that dominated the Eastern Conference all season, FCC finished the regular season quietly. The very day they raised the Shield, they lost their match… to the New York Red Bulls. A Decision Day draw against Atlanta United closed out the regular season. However, they also shut down Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami. Cincinnati chose rotation over domination once the Shield had been secured. The team has had a good rest going into the Round One Best-of-Three Series. Will it be enough?
New York Red Bulls: Up For Anything?
For a team that spent the entire season out of playoff contention, New York’s stoppage time win against Nashville SC rocked the Eastern Conference. Suddenly, the playoffs were an option again. They just had to get past Charlotte FC. They did exactly that, in spectacular fashion.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) October 26, 2023
Even the most cynical New York fans saw a reawakened hope. Brazilian striker Elias Manoel, who tallied only three goals all season, doubled his account in one night. His hat trick sealed the win in Harrison. Homegrown defender and fan favorite John Tolkin added to the scoring with a screaming free kick. Tom Barlow, another New York striker with very few goals in his account, added to his total against Charlotte. Perhaps, like the weather in New Jersey, the Red Bulls are getting hotter at an unlikely time. Or will the trip to Ohio, the poor track record against the Orange and Blue, and the slog of a best-of-three series prove too much for a team that limped over the playoff line with two minutes left to the season?
READ MORE: New York Playoffs are Red
The team that can handle the ‘Best-of-Three’ series may find the rest of the playoffs smooth sailing. All signs point towards FC Cincinnati advancing to face either the Philadelphia Union or the New England Revolution. But it’s suddenly hard to count the Red Bulls out. Manager Troy Lesesne is demanding more of his squad than ever: “[…]we absolutely said, look, we’re not satisfied. We’re going to keep going and we need to manage the game really well…” Soccer is The Beautiful Game, not The Sure Thing.
Note: The first game will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio at TQL Stadium on October 29 at 8:00 PM ET and at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on November 4 at Red Bull Arena. If necessary a third game will be played at TQL Stadium on November 11 at 2:00 PM ET. All games will be shown live on Apple TV and the first game will also be shown live in Canada on TSN5 and RDS.
Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports, of a New York Red Bulls Headshot, on October 25, 2023.
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