FC Cincinnati defender Adrien Regattin (9) plays the ball vs. Red Bulls defender Patrick Seagrist (7) during the first half . (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

HARRISON, N.J. — The Red Bulls hung on to defeat FC Cincinnati in their 25th MLS season opener, 3-2, at Red Bull Arena on a cold Sunday afternoon.

Twice the Red Bulls grabbed two-goal leads, and twice FC Cincy, the worst team in the league last year, came within a goal to make it interesting.

Kyle Duncan, Kaku and Daniel Royer found the net for the host side.

New York was far from at full strength as head coach Chris Armas did not include goalkeeper Ryan Meara (groin) and center back Aaron Long (hamstring) in the 18 as a precautionary measure.

The hosts came out and attacked from the opening kickoff and after several early misses they found paydirt.

Midfielder Florian Valot, who missed most of the 2019 season with an ACL, was the architect of both first-half goals.

The Red Bulls drew first blood on a beauty of a goal in the 16th minute. Royer saved the ball from going out of bounds on the left side with a timely tackle, got up and passed to Valot in the middle. Valot then fed an overlapping Duncan on the right flank and the right back slotted it home from the edge of the six-yard box past goalkeeper Spencer Richey.

Valot was at it again in the 27th minute setting up Kaku, who one-timed his right-wing feed from 14 yards for a two-goal advantage that the team brought into the locker room at the half.

In the opening minute of the second half, Cincy sliced the lead in half. Brandon Vazquez latched onto a long ball from left back Greg Garza on the flank and raced down the field before finding Allan Cruz in the penalty area. Cruz then beat Jensen from about 12 yard to cut the Red Bulls’ margin to 2-1.

Duncan continued to make himself felt offensively, setting up Royer for the Austrian’s first goal of the season as the midfielder-turned-forward scored from 10 yards for a 3-1 advantage in the 70th minute.

Cincy refused to go away. In the 83nd minute, Jürgen Locadia wound up going 1 v 1 against Jensen, who managed to get a piece of the shot. The ball stopped a few yards out outside of the goal, but Locadia got there before the keeper did and tapped it into the net to close within 3-2.