Lewis Morgan takes a long ranged shot on goal against Minnesota United FC
New York Red Bulls’ Lewis Morgan takes a shot against Minnesota United FC at Red Bull Arena in the team’s 2022 home opener (Credit: Sky Sports News)

It’s not easy to come off of a hat-trick and look just as good the following week. Lewis Morgan was always going to have a tall order following his performance against Toronto FC in Week 2. However against Minnesota United FC, he not only underperformed but was almost a non-factor.

Against the 2020 MLS Western Conference Finalists, New York looked the better team overall in the 1-0 loss. However Morgan never jumped off the page with his own work. His biggest moment came in the 79th minute when he fed Patryk Klimala a pass on the right side before that was crossed into the box. The potential game-tying shot was played too far ahead of second half substitute Tom Barlow and went past the goal and into waiting defenders.

To be clear, any fan expecting another hat-trick was going to be disappointed. Morgan’s three goals in Toronto are just under 50% of the grand total of goals (7) he scored in two seasons with Inter Miami CF. However, I don’t think many fans were expecting that but just hoped the MLS Player of the Week continued to look good. Instead, for most of the game offense came from Klimala or Drew Yearwood on the opposite side of the field.

So was this just a normal hangover or did Minnesota just do enough right? Like most things, the answer is somewhere in-between.

Looking just at the statistics would say Morgan had a decent game. He played the full 90 minutes and had five shots, with two being on target. That accounts for over 1/4th of the team’s overall 19 shots. That also counts for exactly 25% of the team’s eight shots on goal. With credit, Minnesota’s goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair is reason why this happened. The Canadian international had the game of his young career working as a replacement. Morgan and everyone on the offense either didn’t capitalize on chances or was stopped by St. Clair.

Distribution wise, Morgan finished with 73.5% of his passes reaching another RBNY player. This is where some answers start to come to light. The percentage puts him behind six other starters from this game. His favorite target was Klimala with roughly three percent of the team’s entire passing game coming from the winger feeding the forward. The problem here was that Klimala didn’t have a great game himself. Only one of his six shots was on target while just under half of his passes were inaccurate.

By association, Morgan playing up to someone not having a great game makes him seem almost invisible. It didn’t help that Minnesota’s D.J. Taylor, Brent Kallman, and even Kervin Arriaga all tried to isolate the winger. Once he had the ball, Morgan had very little chance to pass anywhere but up for a majority of the game. It wasn’t until the team shifted to a 4-4-2 later on that things opened up a little more.

What’s even more interesting is that in the game north of the border, Morgan finished with an accurate pass percentage of 58.3%. That was weighed down by a poor first half, but was also overlooked because of the hat-trick. Either the Scottish international has room to work and pass into Klimala, Omir Fernandez, or Frankie Amaya or he’ll score goals.

In the days following the game in Canada, Morgan was the talk of the league. An interview with Sky Sports News saw the 25 year old say that he wants another chance with the Scottish National Team. Coincidentally, Scotland are currently scheduled to play Ukraine this June in a World Cup Qualifying Playoff.

“Playing well here and trying to get myself back into the Scotland national team is the big aim for this year, but that’s only going to happen if I play well for Red Bulls.

“That’s the biggest honour a player could have. My two caps were in friendlies but it’s still the biggest honour that I’ve had in my career.”

If Morgan wants to reach the international game again, especially for a European Country with loads of semi-domestic talent, he’ll need to adjust more. Finding more space when pressed isn’t going to be easy against the rest of the league. Using his speed not only to get around opposing defenses but knowing when to cut in and play more as a midfielder. Finding room and playing across to players like Yearwood, Fernandez, and Caden Clark is going to be the challenge this season.

He’ll get his next chance against the Columbus Crew this Sunday at Red Bull Arena.

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