Lewis Morgan sounded a bit like a kid on Christmas Eve anxiously anticipating the arrival of Santa Clause. But instead of presents, Morgan is waiting for the opening kick-off on the New York Red Bulls season, which begins on Saturday against Orlando City SC.
Both Morgan and the Red Bulls have plenty of expectations on them going into this season after quite the 2022 MLS campaign. New York surprised many soccer pundits last year by making the postseason and Morgan played a large hand in that with his club leading 14 goals.
It marked the first time since 2018 that a Red Bulls player had scored double-digit goals in a season. But now the Scottish winger will need to replicate that success this year.
“It was a really enjoyable season playing with a really good group of teammates,” Morgan told amNewYork exclusively in a phone interview. “That obviously helped me perform and I just want to help the team be successful really. The one way of doing that is obviously by contributing with goals and assists, and this year my targets are a lot higher than last year.
“Set the bar as high as I can and try to really put a lot of demands on myself. It’s how I get the best out of myself.”
Morgan is already eying how to surpass the 14 regular season goals — and 18 goals he scored for New York across all competition in 2022 — this year. The 2023 campaign will mark his third year in the United States’ top domestic soccer league since making the jump from Celtic F.C. of the Scottish Premiership to join Inter Miami in 2020.
The 26-year-old enjoyed some success in Florida before he was traded to the Red Bulls and really found his legs in the MLS. Morgan credited the coaching staff in New York as well as the move back to his more natural position higher up on the pitch.
“Miami, I don’t think they ever really got to see the best version of me,” Morgan said. “I think it’s no secret that I like to play off that left-wing. … Just the situation at Miami didn’t allow for that. Obviously played a lot of my football at wingback. So that’s another reason, the excitement of getting to play back at my natural position. Then I was excited to play every single game and, and contribute and I think that’s the main thing is that I was playing higher up on the pitch.
“I think in my career when I’ve done that I’ve always scored goals, so that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Coming off the surprise success of last season and the recent addition of Designated Player Dante Vanzeir, the Red Bulls are expected to be one of the best teams in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. Morgan himself was signed to a new contract in December and he expects Vanzeir to be a good addition to the group.
He called him a player with a “good pedigree,” but also highlighted the importance of everyone buying into the team-first mentality.
And as for those heightened expectations, well that’s just football.
“That’s all it really is at this point is talk,” Morgan said. “It’s important that we don’t listen to any of it. We have what we want to do as a group and that will stay within us.”
For more Red Bulls news, visit amNewYork
Entering his second season in New York, Morgan has embraced the area with open arms. He went to a New York Rangers game a few days ago, he told amNewYork, and like any good New Yorker, he tried Katz Deli.
“It was important to buy into the culture of where you’re playing. I think it helps bond you to the people who come out to watch you as well,” Morgan said.
New York Red Bulls @ Orland City SC
- Location: Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL
- Time: Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: Apple TV