Lewis Morgan (left) celebrates his goal with John Tolkin. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

If you are a Red Bulls fan, you already know the bad news.

If you haven’t, well, history keeps repeating itself.

The Red Bulls have been eliminated in the MLS Cup Playoffs.


For the fourth consecutive season, fourth-seeded New York was bounced in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as they could not hold the lead against No. 5 FC Cincinnati in a 2-1 defeat at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.

And just as frustrating and confounding for the team’s faithful, for the 13th consecutive year, the team finds itself look in from the outside in its pursuit of the league’s most precious trophy – the Philip F Anschutz Cup.

And what made it even a little more disappointing, the Red Bulls became the first MLS to be shown the door as the game was the first of six first-round matches on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Ironically, the game’s turning point came only seconds after the hosts’ goal. Lewis Morgan injured himself in the goal celebration after he scored in the 48th minute and was needed to be replaced.

The Red Bulls lost a one-goal lead in the second half as Brandon Vazquez connected for the game-winning goal in the 86th minute.

Sean Nealis tried for the equalizer on an eight-yard header in the 89th minute, but goalkeeper Roman Celentano snared his attempt before 12 minutes of stoppage time was added.

But not even a dozen minutes could save the Red Bulls from what has turned into their annual fate. John Tolkin had an opportunity to score 10 minutes into injury time, but he lifted his 24-yard free kick over the crossbar.

Instead, FC Cincy, which qualified for the playoffs for the first time in its history after three rather miserable seasons as an expansion team, will meet the Philadelphia Union in Chester, Pa. on Thursday in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Red Bulls will become early postseason spectators again.

In a contest that featured similar pressing styles, the first half not surprisingly was a tight one as each side tried to find a hole in the opposing defense.

The Red Bulls celebrated first as Morgan fired home a 24-yard blast after a Cincy clearance in the 48th minute. Morgan celebrated, but couldn’t continue, possibly because a teammate had jumped onto his back.

Cincy, however, was relentless as it pushed for the equalizer.

First, goalkeeper Carlos Coronel parried away Brenner’s close-range header rin the 54th minute. Brenner, the hottest player in the league as the MLS player of the week and the month for September and October, had a relatively ineffective day and was replaced by Sergio Santos in the 67th minute.

The visitors thought they had knotted things up in the 60th minute when Geoff Cameron scored, but VAR determined he was offside.

Then in the 74th minute Cincinnati evened the score on Luciano Acosta’s penalty kick after defender Andres Reyes had fouled Álvaro Barreal in the box.

Acosta shot right while Coronel dived in the opposite direction.

In the 86th minute, Vazquez performed his late heroics, beating Coronel from eight  yards off a nice left-wing pass by Santos.

Luquinhas, the Red Bulls’ best playmaker, was treated as a pin cushion by FC Cincy as he was fouled several times. The first two fouls wound up as yellow cards to former New York defender Matt Miazga and one-time U.S. international defender Geoff Cameron. Alvas Powell fouled the Brazilian at midfield in the 55th minute, which left him on the ground in pain.

A little later in the afternoon, the rest of the New York Red Bulls community felt a different kind, but a familiar type of pain that seems to happen every October or November.