Lewis Morgan’s Leagues Cup penalty miss still provides Red Bulls with promise of return for Messi, Inter Miami match

Note: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links, Schneps Media may earn a commission.
Lewis Morgan New York Red Bulls
Lewis Morgan (Photo courtesy of the New Yorrk Red Bulls)

Lewis Morgan was subbed on in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time as his New York Red Bulls faced penalty kicks in a 1-1 game against the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday night in the Round of 16 at the Leagues Cup. 

The Scottish midfielder stepped on a competitive pitch for the first time since June 3 — a hip injury derailing his 2023 season — though it was to be a spot-kick mercenary considering he went 6-for-6 on penalties during last season’s breakout campaign in which he scored 14 goals. 

But to lead off the penalty kicks, his attempt was saved by Union keeper Andre Blake as the Red Bulls went on to lose the shootout 4-2 and crash out of the competition. 

“I never would put him in a position that if he wasn’t fit to be able to be in that roster, and also be a part of the penalties,” Red Bulls head coach Troy Lesesne said. “I wouldn’t make that decision if he wasn’t fit to do that. I think his form as a penalty-taker is one of the best in the league. So for one moment like that, I trust him. I’d do it again if I had the chance to do it again.”

Lewis Morgan New York Red Bulls
Lewis Morgan (Photo by Adam Glanzman/NYRB) LLewis Morgan Lewis Morgan Lewis Morgan Lewis Morgan

Despite coming out on the wrong side of the result, Morgan’s presence in the side is a step in the right direction for a Red Bulls team that has managed to stay afloat without their most important playmaker, who has been limited to just five games in 2023.

“He’s making really good progress, No. 1, physically,” Lesesne, who originally labeled Morgan’s injury as a concerning one back in June, said. “So, I’m hoping that continues, and maybe we get him back a bit earlier.”

A source indicated to amNewYork that there is a hope within the club that the 26-year-old midfielder, who signed a contract extension earlier this season through 2025, can be ramped up to play considerable minutes for the marquee Aug. 26 meeting with Lionel Messi and Inter Miami at Red Bull Arena. 

Lionel Messi Inter Miami CF
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates after scoring against Orlando City during the first half of a Leagues Cup soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

New York has a week and a half off until their Major League Soccer (MLS) season resumes on Aug. 20 against DC United before receiving another five full days of rest before the Miami tilt. However, there are still understandable and significant hurdles that Morgan must clear in order to feature prominently in the side by then — so optimism should be of the cautious variety. 

The Scottish star’s return would provide a considerable boost to a Red Bulls team that has been searching for consistent goals in his absence. The Red Bulls’ 22 goals scored in MLS play this season (23 games played) is tied for second-worst in the Eastern Conference.

For more on Lewis Morgan and the Red Bulls, visit AMNY.com