Bradley Wright-Phillips’ keeping New York Red Bulls alive

New York Red Bulls

Bradley Wright-Phillips

Bradley Wright-Phillips’ MVP caliber season has kept New York among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

Take away his 14 goals and the New York Red Bulls would only have 12 goals from 17 matches. That’s how important the Englishman has been this season.

After scoring once in his first six appearances this season, the London native has found the back of the net 13 times in 10 games.

His impressive strings of individual performance have been mouth-watering. His most memorable moment of this season was when he scored in four consecutive matches, including two hat-tricks.

He became the first Englishman to score three goals in a Major League Soccer match on April 23 against the Houston Dynamo.

The second hat-trick was in a losing effort to Chicago Fire.

When he arrived in the middle of the 2013 season, the 29-year-old didn’t look like a perfect fit for Mike Petke’s system. His dedication and willingness to run were conspicuous, but he just never looked in sync with Thierry Henry. He only started four games, scoring a goal.

The chemistry between the two forwards in 2014 has been superlative. Wright-Phillips and Henry have packed the one-two punch Petke was hoping to see from Henry and Fabián Espíndola in 2013. In what could be considered a more positive attack, Henry is the creator and Wright-Phillips acts as the finisher.

Instead of relying on counter-attacks and balls over the top, the Red Bulls have settled into a more proactive structure. The central midfielders don’t having too many attacking responsibilities, while Henry floats around, picking up balls and linking up with the wingers and overlapping fullbacks.

To make up for Henry’s mediocre campaign, BWP is dominating the stat sheets. According to Squawka.com, the ex-Manchester City forward completes 75 percent of his passes and fires a staggering 65 percent of his attempts on-goal.

Despite being only 5-foot-8, the son of Arsenal legend Ian Wright has played the center forward position to near perfection. He feeds off his teammates as he runs the channels, utilizes the space created by Henry’s presence and acts as a decoy for late runs into the box.

In the 2-2 tie against the Dynamo on Friday, BWP displayed his understanding of the target forward position by scoring two beautiful goals.

On his first, New York’s No.99 inhabited the space in between the right-back and the center half. He timed his run superbly to beat Houston’s offside trap and lashed onto Eric Alexander’s long ball. He read the bounce perfectly and fired a half-volley past a scrambling Tally Hall.

His second goal was even better. The versatile forward took up a dangerous position inside the box as Henry and Ambroise Oyongo combined down the left flank. Oyongo skillfully lost his defender and lofted a delightful cross into the 18 yard box. BWP peeled off his defender and within a blink of an eye, his snap header floated past a helpless Hall and into the far post.

For someone who isn’t known for his aerial prowess, BWP’s awareness and composure for his fifth goal against Houston this season was remarkable. Instead of making a front post run where the odds would be stacked in his favor, he decided to stand in between two towering center backs and he commanded his area. His movement was too quick for anyone wearing a orange jersey to react.

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