It is that time again. The regular season is now a thing of the past, and for those who have made it, the postseason is about to begin. The playoffs kick off in New Jersey, where the New York Red Bulls will take on Charlotte FC at Red Bull Arena (7.30pm ET Wednesday).
How did NYRB & Charlotte get here?
For much of the campaign, the Red Bulls flirted with the cusp of the playoffs, so much so that they required a strong finish to the regular season to ensure that they made the postseason. That strong finish came and involved the team from Red Bull Arena winning each of their last three fixtures. As such, they come into this nail-biting time of the season in fine form, especially in the defensive third, keeping back-to-back clean sheets ahead of this huge game.
Wednesday’s visitors, Charlotte FC, were also one of those teams whose fate was never quite sealed. They too needed to deliver some big results late in the campaign to get this far. In fact, they needed to finish just as strongly as their hosts here, and that they did, going on an unbeaten run of four to end the regular season. They won three of those four, including on the final day, when they got the better of Inter Miami on home soil by a goal to nil. That win just about saw them sneak through, making them the ninth and final Eastern Conference team to qualify for the postseason.
Defensive security the key for hosts NYRB
One thing that the NY Red Bulls usually offer without fail at home is defensive solidity, and that can hold them in good stead here. Troy Lesesne’s men kept a clean sheet when last in action at this venue. During the regular season, they conceded an average of just 1.00 goals per game, which is far from poor, especially when we consider that they are about to face a team that gave away an average of 1.82 goals per game on the road.
If RBNY are to be successful here, then they’ll need to deliver one of their sturdy defensive performances, much as they did against Toronto last time they were in front of a home crowd, conceding only 0.13 xG and just one shot on target.
Visitors CLTFC need to tighten up
While the Red Bulls are no strangers to keeping things tight at the back on home soil, Wednesday’s visitors have a rather weak defensive record on the road. They have given away plenty of goals in recent away games, conceding twice when last in action away from the comforts of home soil. They have also conceded two or more in three of their last four traveling games, which doesn’t bode well ahead of this playoff clash.
On a slightly more positive note, they have scored a few away goals of late, notching twice in Miami last time out. That came after Christian Lattanzio’s men scored two on their way to picking up a vital win away in Chicago.
Nothing between RBNY & CLT
This will be the third time that these two teams have faced off in 2023. Back in March, right at the very beginning of the regular campaign, the pair tied 1-1 in Charlotte, with the hosts levelling late in the game after Elias Manoel gave the Red Bulls a first-half lead. Three months later and the pair were once again locked together, this time at Red Bull Arena, where they tied 2-2. On that occasion, it was Charlotte FC who sprang out of the gates, scoring two early goals through Ben Bender, before the Red Bulls hit back in the second half thanks to goals from Dante Vanzeir and Cameron Harper. That was the first time in three renewals of this fixture at Red Bull Arena that NYRB had failed to come out on top, winning 2-0 and 3-1 in two 2022 fixtures.
Hosts to grind it out
It is the playoffs, so anything can happen, and this is by no means the easiest fixture to call, though the smart play here, given the early lines, appears to be ‘New York Red Bulls to Win & Under 3.5 Goals’.
The hosts have a defensive record that is far superior to what the visitors have produced defensively on the road, while they are also no strangers to grinding it out in low-scoring fashion. They have won each of their last three, and each of those three games contained less than four goals, while more than three goals have not been scored at Red Bull Arena since June. Moreover, only 12% of NYRB’s home games during the regular season contained more than three goals.
It is also worth noting that the hosts have what can only be described as a very solid average expected goal difference at home. That xG difference is +0.54, which tells us that they generally create more than they concede. They also ended the regular season as the best team in terms of expected goals conceded. That is hard to ignore, especially when considering the visitors were the third-worst team in the Eastern Conference in terms of expected goals against, while their traveling xG difference stands at -0.76, which is worrying.
Although they rarely blow teams out of the water at home, the New York Red Bulls look solid enough to get the result here. They are worth betting on with the U.S. oddsmakers to come out on top in relatively low-scoring fashion, as they so often do. So for our RBNY vs CLT predictions & betting picks for this preview, we have this sole suggestion:
- New York Red Bulls to Win & Under 3.5 Goals @ +165 with Bovada.