Bradley Wright-Phillips has taken MLS by storm this season. On Saturday, the 29-year-old forward scored his 19th and 20th goal of the season, breaking New York Red Bulls single-season scoring record. A record previously held by club legend Juan Pablo Angel.
Wright-Phillips second half brace helped the Red Bulls defeat Montreal Impact and claim one of the five playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Those goals also gave the English striker some breathing room at the top of the scoring chart with 10 games left in the regular season. Sporting Kansas City’s hit man Dom Dwyer needs four goals to tie BWP and five to surpass the in-form striker.
Most MLS supporters, include myself, have been surprise by BWP’s consistency this season. In just 13 months, he’s gone from an unknown commodity to becoming the leading candidate for the MVP award.
Here are the reasons why the son of Arsenal great Ian Wright has been so successful in 2014.
5. Lloyd Sam and New York’s adroit wingers
Every great No.9 will say that they need great service to succeed, and that’s exactly what BWP has gotten this season. Sam in particular has been brilliant down the right flank.
The former Leeds United winger is having his best season since he arrived in New York in 2012. His speed, trickery and tantalizing crosses into the box have caused all sorts of problems for oppositions this year.
Another player that has stepped up his game is Eric Alexander. The midfielder who predominantly plays on the left side has set up eight goals in 24 games.
Another player that deserves some recognition is young Cameroon international Ambroise Oyongo. The 23-year-old has engineered three goals in nine appearances.
4. Tim Cahill’s presence inside the box.
Even though Cahill isn’t having a very productive season, he is still one of the biggest threats inside the 18 yard box. The Australian legends aerial ability forces defenders to pay more attention to him when he makes his trademark late runs into the box.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) August 24, 2014
BWP has scored some of his 19 goals from close range – four from the spot – in part because of Cahill’s habitation of the box.
If Cahill wasn’t posing a threat, the defenders would pay more attention to BWP, taking away some of his scoring chances.
3. Mike Petke’s belief and trust in the English forward.
After his record performance against the Impact, New York’s head coach, Petke, said this about BWP: “Early this year – in the first two weeks, three weeks of preseason – if you had told me that he’d be on 20 goals with 10 games left, I would’ve laughed at you.”
“We laugh about it now because even in preseason in shooting practice, Bradley couldn’t score. It got worse and worse for him.”
How many coaches in the world would rely on a striker that was misfiring in front of goal during preseason to lead their team in the upcoming season? My answer to that question is not many.
Petke never doubted BWP and his trust is paying dividends as the race for the playoffs heats up.
2. BWP’s confidence, great personality and short memory.
BWP is a sanguine footballer, just like his father. He believes in his abilities and works tirelessly towards achieving his goals.
His demeanor during games tells you that he quickly forgets the negatives and holds onto the positives. The charismatic striker is a team player, full of life and hardworking. Those are qualities most great forwards have.
1 Thierry Henry.
Forget about the assists, let’s talk about how Henry has changed or improved BWP’s mentality.
Henry “the perfectionist” thinks BWP should have reached the 20 goal tally in the first 10 games of the season. The France and Arsenal legend said, ““I think he should’ve have done that after 10 games into the season. He scored two today and missed five. You guys are laughing but it’s true. I told him he’s going to have to make sure that when he has one, it’s a goal because maybe in one game he’s going to have one [chance]. It’s not every day that you’re going have five opportunities or six or seven, and he’s scoring some of them.
“I’m not having a go. I’m just saying if you look for how you can improve and I keep on telling him, I keep on saying, ‘You should already be on 35-40 goals.’ I’m not even joking.”
Even though those are harsh words, BWP knows the true meaning behind Henry’s well-structured criticism.
The English forward has been a pupil of Henry’s since he joined the Red Bulls. He has picked the legend’s brain and used everything he’s learned to become the most lethal forward in MLS. With New York fighting for a playoff spot, Henry’s criticism could motivate BWP to aim for greater things.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished the season with 30 or more goals.
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