FRISCO, Texas – Bradley Wright-Phillips must be doing something differently.
How else would you explain his rapidly bloating goal total? After scoring for the New York Red Bulls in a 4-1 opening day defeat, the Englishman didn’t find the back of the net in his next five appearances. Since then, he’s had a hat trick in a 4-0 drubbing of Houston, a goal in a draw against Columbus, an another strike in Sunday’s win against FC Dallas.
New boots? Fresh haircut? Clutch addition to the pre-match playlist?
“No, no, no,” Wright-Phillips said Sunday. “I say every week, just trying to get in the same spots I was getting in and concentrate on hitting the target. That’s what I’m doing.”
When playing forward for a team like the Red Bulls, who employ a creator by the name of Thierry Henry and another attacking dynamo in Tim Cahill, plus upstart Eric Alexander and mainstay Dax McCarty also manning the midfield, there are going to be scoring chances.
And while those players will get on the scoresheet regularly - Cahill led the team in scoring in 2013 while Henry was second in both 2012 and 2013 - a forward to finish what they’ve started is something Mike Petke’s club hasn’t always been able to rely on.
“We just need a forward like him that runs in behind. A guy that’s going to be dangerous, a guy that’s going to keep defenses honest and stretch teams,” McCarty said. “With Thierry coming underneath and trying to be a little bit more of a playmaker and get the ball to his feet, we need that guy who’s going to run in behind and make sure that he uses his speed to be dangerous.
“He’s been finishing off some of his chances recently. He always gets chances, it’s just a matter of whether he puts them in the net or not, and he’s in a really rich run of form right now and we need to make sure we keep getting him the ball.”
Providing Wright-Phillips service was easier said than done Sunday. Though the host side was missing several key players because of injuries and went down to 10 men after just 10 minutes when Je-Vaughn Watson fouled Tim Cahill, it was able to largely control the match.
Part of that was the Texas team’s acclimation to 90-plus degree heat, and familiarity with a pitch McCarty called disappointing also created difficulty for the away club.
But eventually New York was able to make it work with McCarty’s ball over the top finding the legendary Frenchman who passed up a shot to assist the winner.
“This goal’s all Titi really,” Wright-Phillips said. “He’s got through and I think he could’ve shot himself but he had the awareness to cut it back and I was there.”
Not only was he there, he finished. That's one thing the Red Bulls hope he doesn't do any differently.
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