Elias Manoel secured the first playoff hat trick in club history and the New York Red Bulls advanced past Charlotte 5-2 on Wednesday night in the opening game of the MLS playoffs in Harrison, N.J.
The Red Bulls (12-13-10) snapped a string of four straight postseason losses in opening matches, losing all four by one-goal margins.
The Red Bulls advance to a best-of-three series with Cincinnati.
Charlotte (10-12-13), which was eliminated, had won three of its final four matches in the regular season to reach the playoffs after winning just one of its previous 15 league matches.
Manoel has scored six of his eight career MLS goals against Charlotte.
Manoel opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
Manoel settled a lofted pass with his chest and sent a shot inside the far post. Manoel’s second goal came in the 37th for a 3-0 lead — marking the second time in club history New York has scored three goals in the first half of a playoff game.
Manoel capped the scoring in the 78th.
Charlotte’s first postseason goal came in the 49th on a bicycle kick from Kerwin Vargas to get within 3-1.
Charlotte also scored in the 64th to make it 4-2.
The home team has not lost any of the six meetings in the series, though the previous two matches this season ended in draws.