Hat-trick hero! Lewis Morgan already proving worth for New York Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls made headlines last December upon acquiring Lewis Morgan from Inter Miami CF in exchange for $1.2 million in General Allocation Money over two years – at the time, the most expensive trade in terms of guaranteed money in MLS history.

Just two weeks into the 2022 campaign, it hasn’t taken long for the Scottish attacker to make a big impact with his new club.

After registering an assist in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last week, Morgan starred in the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, scoring a hat trick within 40 minutes – including two stunning goals.

“I think Lewis Morgan, today, he played very successful,” head coach Gerhard Struber said postgame. “We can see and everyone can see his technical abilities and it’s very good to see that he has a big impact in our game … I think Lewis sent me a big signal to play in the [No. 10 role] more like today.”

Morgan opened the scoring with a beautiful first-time curled strike off a Patryk Klimala cutback in the 17th minute, doubling his mark with a near-identical goal seven minutes later. Before the first half was over, Morgan found himself in behind on a 2-on-0, keeping the ball before showing composure with a sleek finish into the bottom left-hand corner.

Oddly enough, all three strikes were assisted by Klimala, indicating a burgeoning partnership with the Polish forward.

“The connection between Patryk [and him] is always ready and Patryk always has a good eye on him," added Struber. "He played him clean passes in areas that Lewis can handle with his shooting ability in a very successful way, and I think in the end this makes the big difference today."

Playing mostly at wingback, Morgan scored two goals and added four assists in 34 matches for a struggling Miami side last season, although he has proven capable of producing in MLS. In 2020, he scored five goals and recorded seven assists as an attacking midfielder en route to being named Miami’s team MVP.

The 25-year-old was a valuable piece in South Florida, but sporting director Chris Henderson went about a near-complete roster makeover. Now, he could be a big piece for New York's high-octane, high-pressing style of play.

“I think we play football the right way,” Morgan said postgame. “I think we’re energetic, we’re hungry, we want to win, and we’re a good group. When you look to your side and you put 10 other guys onto the field with you that are all bought into the same style of play, I think that is so important. … It’s just important for new players coming here to buy into that and I think the group is doing remarkably well to start the season in the manner that we have and we’ll be contending."

The Red Bulls have now registered two road wins to open an MLS season for the first time in their history. With another big three points on the road, they've picked up where they left off last season when they lost only one of their last 12 regular-season matches in 2021 (W7 D4) en route to qualifying for their 12th straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

With Morgan in fine form and new Designated Player Luquinhas and Watford FC loanee Ashley Fletcher still to debut for the club, it’s been a dream start to the year for Struber’s men. They'll feel confident heading into their 2022 home opener vs. Minnesota United FC at Red Bull Arena next Sunday (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, on DAZN in Canada).

"I'm delighted to get the three points and delighted to get the first goals of the season for me," said Morgan, a former Celtic FC attacker.