Lewis Morgan celebrates one of his 15 goals. (USA TODAY Sports)
A familiar, frustrating refrain could be heard from Red Bull fans after their MLS season ended again in disappointment:
Wait til next year.
For the 13th year in a row, the Red Bulls reached the MLS Cup Playoffs.
And for the 13th year in a row, they were eliminated before they could reach the final.
That became reality on Oct. 15, when the Red Bulls were shown the door in the first round of the postseason for the fourth successive season.
And what made it even worse, they lost a one-goal lead at home en route to a 2-1 defeat to FC Cincinnati on Brandon Vasquez’s 86th-minute goal.
The Red Bulls certainly had a strange season, compiling just a 6-6-5 record at Red Bull Arena and a sterling 9-5-3 mark on the road. That translated into a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference at 15-11-8.
If there was a turning point to their season, it occurred during a 10-day span in the summer.
They staged a late comeback to register a 4-3 road triumph at Austin FC on July 24.
They then watched a 1-0 lead dissipate in what was a nightmare 5-1 loss to eventual champion Orlando City SC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on July 27.
Then came another late meltdown, a 5-4 home defeat to the Colorado Rapids on Aug. 2.
While many teams brought in game changers, the Red Bulls decided to use some of their younger players to fill in the gaps.
There certainly were some memorable and encouraging moments for head coach Gerard Struber’s team.
Midfielder Lewis Morgan, who was brought in via a trade with Inter Miami CF, played up to his potential and then some, connecting for a team-high 15 goals.
There also was the emergence of midfielder Cristian Casseres, Jr., and the encouraging play of defender John Tolkin and midfielder Daniel Edelman, among others.
Center back Aaron Long, who missed just about the entire 2021 campaign, returned to play (29 appearances, 28 starts) and made his way onto the U.S. men’s national team for the World Cup.
After a so-so start, goalkeeper Carlos Coronel regained his mojo toward the end of the season.
Brazilian midfielder Luquinhas was added. After a promising start while adding creativity to the attack, he petered out toward the end of the season (five goals, three assists in 30 matches) as he did not record a point in his final 11 appearances. Whether it was from incessant fouling from the opposition or perhaps an injury we were not aware of, Luquinhas needs to bounce back in 2023.
Then there was forward Patryk Klimala, who became the poster boy for disappointment and underachievement (five goals in 28 matches), especially since his guaranteed compensation was in seven figures ($1.135 million).
Red Bulls supporters have to be frustrated in other ways as well.
They only need to look across the Hudson River to see what has been transpiring with New York City FC, which captured the MLS crown after joining the league in 2015. City fans will have a new stadium to call home as well in 2027, which was announced in November.