Elias Manoel celebrates his second goal on Sunday. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

It may be a bit premature to say the Red Bulls have solved their striker problem, but Elias Manoel certainly did his part in putting a few doubts behind him on Sunday.

Manoel tallied twice – on either side of halftime, his first two goals for the team, to lift the Red Bulls to a 2-0 victory over Charlotte FC at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

The win clinched fourth place in the Eastern Conference for New York and a home game against FC Cincinnati in the MLS Cup Playoffs next week.

“I am very happy to be able to score both goals and be able to give my team three points,” the Brazilian forward said. “This is the start of many other goals. I’m really excited for the upcoming games.”

Prior to the match, the Red Bulls’ three primary strikers this MLS season had scored nine goals and added four assists in 33 games. Red Bulls strikers hadn’t scored since a 1-1 home draw with FC Cincy on Aug. 20.

So, that had to give the team a big boost.

Goalkeeper Carlos Coronel, who secured the clean sheet, praised his countryman.

“Yeah, of course it was great to see him score,” he said. “Great timing for him to score two goals right before the playoffs. Gives him the confidence that we need for him in the playoffs. A young player with a lot of qualities are great to see that and I really hope he gets player of the game today.”

Don’t worry, he did.

Head coach Gerhard Struber said that the 20-year-old Manoel has fit the Red Bulls pressing style.

“He is learnable, he is coachable, he has feet,” Struber said. “This is always for our game style, so I would say very, very helpful.

“Right now, he realized his first goals, and I think this gives himself a very good feeling for the next game. … We are very, very happy with his progress in our identity. Yeah, looking forward for the next games with him.”

Struber wasn’t the only one to think so.

Given the Red Bulls’ struggles to put the ball into the back of the net, Manoel’s presence certainly helped the team’s confidence entering the postseason.

“For me, that actually gave us a lot of confidence for myself and also for my team,” he said. “As we all know this tournament now start from zero. Now we’re all moving forward and going for MLS Cup.”