Lewis Morgan fights for the ball against Inter Miami defender Serhiy Kryvtsov during their team's match on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey (Credit: AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Lewis Morgan fights for the ball against Inter Miami defender Serhiy Kryvtsov during their team’s match on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey (Credit: AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Saturday’s game at Red Bull Arena was the type of win that catalyzes a team’s season. On a soggy afternoon, Lewis Morgan and Dante Vazeir combined for greatness in the New York Red Bulls’ 4-0 win. Their opponent, Inter Miami CF, initially thought to be the star of the day, never looked complete.

 

Both teams came into Saturday missing players. New York was missing seven players due to international duty and injuries. That included Carlos Coronel, Emil Forsberg, John Tolkin, and Elias Manuel. On the other side, Inter Miami was without Lionel Messi. In total, the visitors were missing eleven players.

The weather in Harrison, New Jersey, called for record volumes of rain. Puddles formed along the edges of the field, and at times, players and the ball slid on the slick surface. Before the match even started, Uruguay international Luis Suárez looked miserable as he warmed up with Miami. Some players, like Morgan, loved the weather. The international said it reminded him of Scotland and made him feel at ease. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who stepped on the field today in place of Coronel, noted how every game at home this year has been in rough weather. To see fans come out, with the game being announced as a sellout, meant a lot to the team.

“Our fans have been amazing. I’ve been here for 13 years. It’s been two of the most miserable games weather-wise that I’ve been a part of here, and both times, our fans really showed out,” said Meara. “We appreciate it more than we can even say. When they get behind us, we put on a good performance, and things come together. I think the sky’s the limit for this team in this club.”

Morgan, whose season last year was marred by injury, started fast against the most popular team in Major League Soccer. A pass by Dylan Nealis found Vanzeir, who back-passed quickly to Morgan at the top of the box. He shot towards the left side, where not even CJ dos Santos’ dive could stop the goal in the 3rd minute. The goal was Morgan’s second straight in a home game after he scored the game-winner against FC Dallas earlier this month.

Dos Santos, in only his second-ever match with the Miami first team, was never able to get a grasp of the match. The 23-year-old only made two saves of the six shots that were on target.

For Morgan, he admits having a career game against his former club comes with mixed emotions.

“I don’t know; it’s a little bittersweet for me. I’ve played and represented that club and have a lot of love for them,” said Morgan after the game. “Every single goal, for me, is as sweet as the next one.”

That bittersweet feeling didn’t leave his mouth for long during this game. He linked up with Vanzeir for two more goals in the second half.

In the 53rd minute, a Miami pass in their own end was intercepted by Franke Amaya. The midfielder passed up to Vanzeir right at the top center of the box, who quickly passed to his left towards Morgan. The Scottish international took a right-footed strike into the right corner of the net.

The final goal for Morgan in the 70th minute came with some controversy. Kyle Duncan slid to cleanly take away a potential Miami chance in the RBNY box. As the visitors screamed for a penalty kick, Andrés Reyes sent a long ball down the field toward Vanzeir. On the right side, the Belgian beat Noah Allen and got into the box. He calmly passed to Morgan, who one touched the ball into the net for the game’s final goal.

The outlier goal of the night came from Wiki Carmona. Morgan, on the attack, ran the ball into the box along the end line on the left side. He passed in towards Vanzeir, who, either accidentally or critically, redirected the ball into open space. Carmona charged on the ball and shot low to beat dos Santos.

For Vanzeir, the afternoon performance was historic. He became the first player in franchise history to record four assists in a match and the eighth player in league history. It was also his first-ever multi-assist MLS match.

Morgan explained after the game how the team’s performance was a huge bounce back after a 3-0 loss on the road to Columbus last week.

“The Columbus game was very disappointing, and we didn’t perform as we wanted,” said Morgan. “We also knew that we wouldn’t become a bad team overnight. We’ve done so many things so well in the first three games of the year, and the manager was good at making sure we were reminded of those things. So, this week, we focused on all the stuff we’d done well rather than dwell too much on the Columbus game. I think today we went out there, and every single player stood up.”

It wasn’t totally smooth sailing for New York, who, like Miami, was missing players for this game. Ryan Meara stepped up in goal as Carlos Coronel served international duty with Paraguay. The 33-year-old’s last start was against Miami back on May 22, 2022. Saturday was his eighth career shutout and first since October 2020.

After the match with the media, Meara spoke about his role as a backup keeper. When it was mentioned he doesn’t get MLS often anymore, he candidly thanked the reporter for bringing that up.

“That’s the life of a backup goalie. I’ve been in this position for my 13th year now. So, it’s nothing new to me,” said Meara. “I just try to be ready at all times when my number is called. It’s not about just coming in and hoping to play well and make a couple of plays; it’s about coming and helping the team win. It’s always great to be able to do that.”

Inter Miami looked as though they ruined Meara’s clean sheet in the 77th minute. Noah Allen chipped a shot over the keeper from the left side to make it 4-1. However, VAR called the goal back. After the game, the referee explained that Dylan Nealis had been charged in the back by Miami’s Leo Afonso in the play prior.

Meara had a solid performance coming off a groin injury designation earlier this season. Miami only had two shots on target for him to save. However, that was a point early on where the Yonkers, NY native was close to getting a red card for a near takedown of a Miami player on the attack.

New York has two road games over the next two weeks in Orlando and Cincinnati. RBNY returns home on April 13 when they host Chicago Fire FC.


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