Welcome to the postseason! Both sides who have made it to the Eastern Conference’s Wild Card game did so dramatically on Decision Day, with 1-0 wins for both the New York Red Bulls and Charlotte FC, earning them extensions to their season.
John Tolkin’s 94th-minute penalty earned RBNY their 14th consecutive postseason appearance, a new MLS record.
At the same time, Charlotte have goalscorer Kerwin Vargas and goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina to thank for their win over Miami to gain entry to the playoffs for the first time. Only can progress to Round One of the MLS Audi Cup Playoffs.
Jack Collins here from The Game Day to look at the opening game of the MLS Audi Cup Playoffs, the Eastern Conference Wild Card game, happening on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
New York Red Bulls vs. Charlotte FC Odds
New York Red Bulls vs Charlotte FC betting lines are current as of Monday, Oct. 23, at 9 a.m. ET at bet365 Sportsbook.
- 3-Way Moneyline: RBNY (-154) • Tie (+275) • Charlotte (+320)
- Total Goals: Over 2.5 (-138) • Under 2.5 (+107)
- Both Teams To Score: Yes (-134) • No (+100)
New York Red Bulls vs. Charlotte FC Match Prediction
New York Red Bulls 1:0 Charlotte FC
It’s tough to split these two teams. Both spent most of the season below the playoff line, and both saw drama in spades as they could keep their seasons alive on the final day.
It’s a story of bad starts and good finishes, as well as defensive solidity, that has seen both sides make it to this stage of the season, and that is what both coaches will almost certainly lean into as knockout football begins in earnest in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
For the Red Bulls, that is based around a holy trinity at the heart of defense. Goalkeeper Carlos Coronel kept nine clean sheets throughout the regular season. At the same time, a settled center-back partnership between captain Sean Nealis and Colombian defender Andrés Reyes has been crucial to latter-season success.
For the Crown, the value of Kristijan Kahlina was evident throughout their make-or-break game against Inter Miami, with the standout moment coming in a breathtaking fingertip save from a Leo Campana header that seemed destined for the far corner.
It was as good as a goal, and the jubilant celebrations around Kahlina after the final whistle showed how important he was to continuing Charlotte’s season.
“I said in the dressing room to some guys, all the season, all the training I had this season, it goes to this last save,” Kahlina said afterward. Tolkin’s penalty had been the difference between RBNY progressing or crashing out, so it was with Kahlina’s reflexes.
So, in a game where defenses should be on top, where are the difference makers at the other end? The Crown have one in Kerwin Vargas, who scored the goal that won that game and whose goal and assist in Charlotte’s point midweek against Miami were crucial to where they now find themselves.
The Colombian 21-year-old hasn’t been a locked-in starter this season, but his performances in the last three games, with Charlotte taking 7 points from 9 as he started all three, will mean that he certainly gets the nod in Harrison.
At the other end, the Red Bulls haven’t had a consistent goal-scoring threat this season, but as often these days, they will look to homegrown talent to be the difference.
New York-born Omir Fernandez is the club’s top scorer in MLS with six goals from the right wing, and if he can drift off that wing to find dangerous positions, as he did against D.C. United back in September, there’s every chance that he could be the one who breaks the deadlock.
There’s also Brazilian 21-year-old Elias Manoel, who hasn’t set the league alight this year, but his versatility and work rate make him a key piece in Troy Lesesne’s system. He grabbed a goal and an assist against Charlotte in the regular season's two meetings between the clubs.
Charlotte have never won at Red Bull Arena. While there isn’t too much between these sides, the Red Bulls’ home seeding and playoff experience could be what edges them over the line in what promises to be an incredibly tightly fought contest.
New York Red Bulls vs. Charlotte FC Best Bet
Total Goals: Under 2.5 (+107) • bet365 Sportsbook
RBNY conceded fewer goals than anybody except Nashville SC in the Eastern Conference this season and have kept clean sheets in their last two games.
While their league fixture against Charlotte back in August at Red Bull Arena ended 2:2, expect this to be a far tighter contest with fewer risks taken.
Charlotte have kept three clean sheets in their last four, including in that final-day win, so that a single goal could be the difference in this one.