Lewis Morgan injured his groin after he scored the first goal and left the game. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Now, here is a scenario you don’t see very often, if ever:
A team scores and that moment becomes the turning point against that side in what turns into a distressing defeat.
That is exactly what transpired when Lewis Morgan’s beautiful goal scored to give the Red Bulls a 48th-minute lead in the 2-1 loss to FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.
He injured his groin and was pulled for defender Dylan Nealis three minutes later.
Instead of grabbing the momentum, the Red Bulls were never the same. They went down quicker than when the stock market lost some of its value some days this week.
“He must go after his super shot,” head coach Gerhard Struber said. “He cannot play.”
The Red Bulls never recovered.
“From the mental standpoint a little bit overloaded, how we create after he leaves,” Struber said. “That next moment for us … They bring us a little bit out of control.”
Captain and center back Aaron Long said the only change the Red Bulls made was going to a back five. Well, that didn’t exactly work, did it?
Luciano Acosta’s penalty kick equalized in the 74th minute before Brandon Vaszquez turned a New York turnover into the game-winning goal in the 86th minute.
It was a nightmare end to another frustrating and disappointing playoff appearance by the Red Bulls.
Struber said the loss was “painful” and a “big hit in the face.”
The Red Bulls are not only the youngest team in MLS but in the world among major professional leagues.
“It’s a big learning moment, a moment to grow,” the head coach said.
But what a classroom in which to learn – Red Bull Arena in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“You can see some small details decide in the end, you are in the next round, or you step out,” Struber said. “The mistakes in the end, they bring us on the loser street. This is hard to accept. This is very, very painful now.
“You cannot go for a second with a relaxing moment or you are not clear enough to clear the ball. It’s hard but this is the reality of the moment. We have to learn. We have to grow in moments like that. It’s not easy.”
So, a familiar refrain was heard around Red Bulls’ universe on Saturday: Wait ’til next year.
“We have to reflect [on] the whole season,” Struber said. “We have to be also critical with ourselves, what could we do better, what we need in the future, which resources we need that we have in the end a higher chance to be in the playoffs and to be together with a group of players that have a realistic chance to speak about the trophy.”
That will have to wait ’til next year.