Troy Lesesne hails individual performances in Red Bulls’ 5-2 triumph over Charlotte FC
New York Red Bulls advanced to the first round of MLS Cup playoffs after taking down Charlotte FC 5-2. Head coach Troy Lesesne made sure to highlight several players for their stellar showings after the game.
After the first couple months of the regular season, it seemed like Red Bulls would miss out on the playoffs and the chance to extend their record 13-year postseason streak. But that all changed when New York parted ways with Gerhard Struber and promoted Lesesne from assistant to interim head coach.
The team now has a new fire instilled in them, as they put five past the visitors to advance to the best-of-three series with FC Cincinnati. In the emphatic win, New York scored five goals for the first time in a playoff game in team history as well as Elias Manoel scoring the first Red Bulls hat trick in postseason history.
“I don’t think it’s attributed to anything other than individuals stepping up in a big moment for us,” Lesesne said after the game at Red Bull Arena. “We needed that all year, by the way, so it’s good to see in the playoffs.”
Manoel, who Lesesne explained was “absolutely hitting form,” wasn’t alone serving up a brilliant display. John Tolkin, New York’s homegrown and upcoming star full-back, chipped in with two assists and a picture-perfect free kick in the first half.
“This free-kick is just special, this has nothing to do with coaching,” said Lesesne. “JMi (Tolkin’s nickname), again, stepping up and creating a big moment.”
It was the second straight week that Tolkin delivered in a big moment for New York, as his stoppage-time penalty sealed three points against Nashville SC on Decision Day to extend Red Bull’s playoff qualification streak to 14 straight seasons.
“[Elias] has done a tremendous job coming in, really growing into the team and figuring out our style of play and what he needs to do,” Tom Barlow, who got on the scoresheet, said. “He’s a great guy, and he’s really putting in a lot of extra work, and you can see it paying off, so I’m really happy for him.”
Red Bulls return to action for game one against Cincinnati on October 29 at TQL Stadium, and Lesesne’s squad were victorious in the previous meeting, 2-1.