The New York Red Bulls have had a perfect opening to their season, and according to their manager and squad, they’re just getting started.
Lewis Morgan scored a hat trick and captain Aaron Long hammered the final nail into the coffin as New York dismantled Toronto FC by a 4-1 scoreline on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. A Jesus Jimenez goal to cut the Red Bull lead in half gave Toronto a faint glimmer of hope, but Gerhard Struber’s young team again responded to adversity by dominating even further for the second week in a row.
Struber rolled New York out in a 4-4-2 formation with Tom Barlow pairing with Patryk Klimala while Lewis Morgan moved from his wingback role in San Jose into a more advanced attacking midfielder, and the Red Bulls reaped the rewards. The game was choppy in the early minutes before opening up, and Toronto in fact had the better of chances early on a cold, windy afternoon at the Lake Ontario waterfront. The pitch at BMO was in notably poor condition after the harsh northern winter, leading to some sloppy moments especially early. A potentially nuclear moment 15 minutes in was averted by both sides when a tangle between Dru Yearwood and Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio saw both players use their hands aggressively towards the others’ face.
Shortly after referee Rubiel Vazquez chose not to dismiss either player, New York began their onslaught. In the 17th minute, the active (or, in Gerhard Struber’s words, “sexy”) Frankie Amaya carried the ball past Toronto captain Michael Bradley before finding Patryk Klimala out wide, whose low cross was expertly turned into the corner of the net by Lewis Morgan to give the Red Bulls a buoyant opening goal.
After Alejandro Pozuelo was stuffed point blank a minute later by Carlos Coronel on a chance to get Toronto level, Struber’s team took out their sword. In the 26th minute, Morgan struck again on an almost identical chance in which Klimala left the ball slightly behind him before the Scotsman rifled past Alex Bono for a 2-0 lead.
Toronto would muster a response in the 35th minute through striker Jesus Jimenez. The Spaniard was fed by Michael Petrasso following some forgiving defense by New York right back Dylan Nealis, and rounded the stepping Carlos Coronel before finishing to halve New York’s lead. But minutes later it would be Lewis Morgan again putting the game out of reach for the Canadians.
After Patryk Klimala battled to win a loose ball in the center circle, he notched his third assist of the day when he fed a streaking Morgan to motor beyond the Toronto defense and finish past a helpless Bono to put Toronto behind 3-1. In the 42nd minute Aaron Long would complete his comeback from injury by heading in a Frankie Amaya free kick to crush Toronto’s spirits just before the half.
The second half would prove to be much less eventful than the first as the Red Bulls coasted to three points. New York’s pressing structure (with Tom Barlow’s off-ball work receiving particular praise from Gerhard Struber post-game) pinned the Toronto backline in their own third, and center back Carlos Salcedo was lucky to stay on the field after a long review of a frustrated studs up challenge on Klimala. Morgan nearly earned a fourth goal late, but his last confident finish of the afternoon was called back on a questionable offside decision.
But yet again Struber’s team saw out an emphatic victory on the road, putting New York in the best possible spirit ahead of next week’s home opener against Minnesota United.
“I think today we see very good improvements in the right direction,” said the Austrian manager post-match. “We come today with a different shape and I am very happy with my decision.”
Lewis Morgan was the most visible beneficiary of Struber’s tactics on the day, and remarked post-match on his comfort playing in such a system after joining the club in the offseason.
“The goals were more than just (me). Everything about the way we play is easier when you have 10 other guys bought in, and I always back myself in the chances we were creating today. I think this is one of the few teams in the league that stays true to its values and where everybody knows their roles.”
But Struber along with his captain Aaron Long said it was important for the team to keep their hunger and motivation and not get overconfident from their season’s near-perfect start.
“Despite this win, we stay humble. We are not satisfied. There are still many things that need to be improved. We need the fans to be behind us as we come home, and I guarantee that my players will give a good performance and leave everything on the field.”
Long said that the two wins to open the season are “good for the soul” but that the team needs to “re-level our heads” and focus on upcoming opponents. “We’re celebrating right now, but tomorrow is another day and we need a big performance (in the home opener).”