FC Cincinnati eliminate New York Red Bulls from MLS playoffs

Aaron Boupendza scored the equalizer in the second half and FC Cincinnati eliminated the New York Red Bulls 8-7 in a 10-round penalty shootout after the two clubs played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.

After being losing the opening game 3-0, the Red Bulls returned home for a series-deciding match. Neither team scored until Tom Barlow found the net unassisted in the 45th minute to give the eighth-seeded Red Bulls the lead at the half.

Cincinnati, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and winners of the Supporter’s Shield, pulled even when Boupendza took a pass from Luciano Acosta in the 75th minute and scored. Acosta had a goal disallowed in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time by VAR. New MLS rules meant the tie had to be broken by a penalty shootout.

John Tolkin, Serge Ngoma and Andrés Reyes all missed penalty kicks for the Red Bulls. Santiago Arias and Yerson Mosquera misfired for Cincinnati.

Insane 8-7 PK finish at Red Bull Arena. 😱

Roman Celentano caps it off with a game-winning save to send @fccincinnati to the next round of the Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs! pic.twitter.com/cL9n8bPTSN

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 5, 2023

‘This group had a choice to make,’ Red Bulls head coach Troy Lesesne told reporters after the loss. ‘They had a choice when our situation was the worst in the league. We were bottom of the table and the players had a choice to make; we can stay in that position or we can fight. And every single step of the way from May 8 until where we are today, even towards the end of that game and penalties, there is no quit in this group. And that is something you have to respect.”

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The Red Bulls claimed a postseason berth in the final minutes of MLS’ Decision Day, the final day of the regular season, before falling to the one-seed in a best-of-three series.

Cincinnati have won four and drawn three times in their last seven road matches against New York in all competitions. It is the club’s longest unbeaten run against any opponent.

New York have won seven, lost eight and drawn zero in their last 15 playoff matches at home, dating to 2011. They have not won a playoff game since 2018.

Cincinnati will move to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, where they will face either Philadelphia Union or New England Revolution.