Lewis Morgan celebrates goal No. 2. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

If you had Lewis Morgan scoring a hat-trick on your bingo card, then you are a big winner.

As it turns out, so was he and the Red Bulls.

In a performance that no one saw coming, the Scottish native not only struck three times, but he accomplished the feat in the opening half to power the Red Bulls to a stunning 4-1 triumph over Toronto Fc at BMO Field on Saturday.

The result gave the Red Bulls two wins and seven goals in their opening two matches, both on the road. They registered a 3-1 victory at the San Jose Earthquakes last  Sunday.

In fact, the Red Bulls won their first two games of the season on the road for the first time in franchise history. It also was the fourth time in New York won its opening two matches of a season and first two road games of a campaign.

“That’s kind of a dream game for us when we’re coming on the road to a tough place to play, tough conditions into a team’s home opener,” said team captain Aaron Long, who contributed a goal. “You can’t ask for more than that as a group to respond like that and to not only win the fight, but to put some quality together and score four goals on the road is big time. It just gives the group more confidence.

“Lewis [Morgan] had an amazing day.”

For the second consecutive week, the Red Bulls were out-possessed by the host side by a considerable margin. Toronto held the ball 67.4 percent of the time. New York, however, outshot Toronto, 13-6, and placed more attempts on target, 9-4. And more important, shot more balls into the back of the net.

Morgan was the expert in that department on Saturday.

Last week Morgan played as a wing back. On Saturday he was an outside midfielder who enjoyed one of finest matches of his career.

“Right now, Lewis sent me a big signal to play in the 10, maybe more like today,” head coach Gerard Struber said.

His first two goals were the result of New York forcing Toronto to cough up the ball at midfield. New York has used that pressing style for the past several seasons, which Morgan did not like playing against.

Playing with it, however, was another story, at least on Saturday.

“Red Bulls was always a hard team to play against,” Morgan said. “Obviously they enjoyed too much success when we played them when I was at Miami. Getting the first taste of it last week in competitive action I could see how many chances we create in transition. I knew playing a little bit higher up today there was going to be chances for me to score and then always by myself.

“It was great to get a goal. It’s great to be playing in this system. We started the season two games on the road, get the maximum points. Good to get the momentum to keep building on and we can get a little bit excited about the season ahead.”

Morgan lifted the visitors into the lead in the 17th minute, converting a Patryk Klimala feed from atop the penalty area. It was the first of three assists by Klimala.

Seven minutes later, Morgan had a brace after Klimala appeared to miskick a pass. The Scottish native simply ripped a 20-yard shot home for a 2-0 lead.

After Toronto’s Jesus Jiminez closed the gap to 2-1 in the 35th minute, Morgan completed his hat-trick five minutes later. A quick counterattack resulted in a two-man break for the Red Bulls as Morgan beat goalkeeper Alex Bono from eight yards.

To appreciate Morgan’s accomplishment, Morgan had all of seven goals in 58 games with Inter Miami CF the last two seasons.

And to further appreciate the Red Bulls’ four goals in the first half, Toronto enjoyed a 67-percent possession advantage.

Long snapped Morgan’s streak by heading home a Frankie Amaya free kick in the 42nd minute for a four-goal halftime advantage. It was the Red Bulls’ captain’s first goal since late in the 2020 season.

With the Red Bulls enjoying a three-goal lead, Struber was able to substitute Long with Tom Edwards in the 66th minute. Long is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered last season.

Morgan drilled home a Klimala pass in the 87th minute, but he was ruled to be offside.

Next Sunday, the Red Bulls come home to host Minnesota United at Red Bull Arena.

“We got to re-level our heads,” Long said. It’s good to be extremely happy with two wins on the road. I know the locker room is celebrating right now for the win, but we got to turn the page quickly. We got to not get overconfident. We have a big game coming up in a home opener and we want nothing more than to win that game. … We need a big performance on Sunday.”