The morning after their cross-town rivals secured their first silverware, the New York Red Bulls have begun re-arming for the next chance to secure local bragging rights.
On Sunday the Red Bulls confirmed the previously-reported signing of Scottish international winger Lewis Morgan from Inter Miami. The 25-year-old Morgan joins on a two-year deal in which New York will pay Inter $700k of General Allocation Money this year and $500k next year as well as a sell-on clause for any future transfers. Morgan’s contract will run through the next two seasons, with an option for 2024.
A two-footed wide player originally from the Glasgow suburb of Paisley, Morgan had been one of the few standouts on an otherwise dire Inter Miami side during the club’s first two years of existence. With 7 goals and 12 assists in 57 MLS appearances, Morgan was the team’s player of the year in 2020.
Morgan additionally joins Cameron Harper and Patryk Klimala as well as the departing Andrew Gutman as the latest Celtic FC alum to sign with New York under head of sport Kevin Thelwell. Prior to joining Inter in 2020, Morgan had been a rotational player with the Scottish league giants following a successful start to his career with hometown club St Mirren. At the tail end of his St Mirren career Morgan earned two caps with the Scotland senior team, though has not been involved with the setup under current national team manager Steve Clarke.
In a video message on Sunday, Morgan expressed excitement to “build on what the manager and the players have done here last year” as the Red Bulls seek to harness 2021’s late season momentum. In an exit interview with the Miami Herald, Morgan cited New York as one of the league’s most impressive teams and one that will put his “work rate” to good use. Though early speculation hovered around whether Morgan would be a replacement for the departing Kyle Duncan as an offensive-minded fullback, the New York press release indicated that Thelwell and head coach Gerhard Struber view Morgan as more of a forward.
“He possesses the instinct and intelligence to recognize to get in behind, to open up passing lanes and create space,” said Struber. “His ability against the ball to press and counter-press will also provide useful to our team.”
For a New York team coming off a season where they often dominated games but struggled to combine and create shots once in the final third, a player with Morgan’s aforementioned traits will be a welcome addition. In this ways Morgan could be seen as a replacement in the squad not for Duncan as a wingback but for departing Austrian veteran Daniel Royer as the team’s final third freestylist, contributing dribbles and distracting runs as well as ball-holding link play and the occasional goal.
In a team-building context, Morgan arrives as the latest big ticket intra-league signing by a Thelwell-Struber operation that had been expected to lean heavily on European recruitment but has shown a taste for MLS-based talent. While seven-digit allocation signing Frankie Amaya struggled to catch flight after arriving early this season from Cincinnati, Morgan’s old Miami teammate Andrés Reyes emerged as one of the league’s elite defenders in his first season with the Red Bulls in 2021.
Whether scouting in Lennoxtown or Fort Lauderdale, New York appears set to continue betting that they can get more out of talent held back by less-structured environments elsewhere. For a fanbase smarting after last night’s trophy raising, it’s a gamble that has to pay off.