By DAN KARELL
It had been in the works for some time, but on Wednesday the New York Red Bulls finally made the signing of Bradley Wright-Phillips official.
The English forward adds depth and versatility to the team, and his greatest asset, speed, is something that has been lacking from the Red Bulls this season. And despite there being competition for a starting position at both the outside midfield and forward positions, Wright-Phillips said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play in New York.
“I found out about (the Red Bulls) from my agent,” Wright-Phillips told the Red Bulls at training on Wednesday. “He asked me if I was interested, said they were interested [the New York Red Bulls] and I thought I couldn’t say no.
“The players that are here, the facilities, I wanted to be a part of it.”
Wright-Phillips’ career has taken him all across English soccer, playing with four different clubs in three divisions after coming up in the Manchester City academy system, the same one his brother Shaun Wright-Phillips graduated from.
Despite his natural physical ability and talent on the ball, Wright-Phillips was always going to be compared to his father, Ian Wright, a legendary goalscorer for Arsenal, and Shaun, who made more than 35 appearances for the England National Team and was on their 2010 World Cup squad.
In Major League Soccer though, Wright-Phillips won’t have the spotlight of his family shining as strongly on his back, which could have been one of the reasons that he decided to make the jump across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’ve played in England for like 10 years maybe and I’ve never played over here,” Wright-Phillips said. “Like I said before, everything that you want in a club is here and I just wanted to experience it.”
The 28-year-old Englishman spent around two weeks at the end of June into July trialing with the club, and he clearly made an impression with Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. In a reserve match against the Wilmington Hammerheads, Wright-Phillips showed off his blazing speed and tactical awareness as a forward, helping set up a number of chances for his team in the first half.
“He gives us a great option not only up front for some depth, but he also could be an interesting aspect for outside, a wing player,” Petke said. “He’s very confident on the ball, he’s very offensive minded, he’s got good pace, I know he’s played out wide on wing at certain points, so it gives us an option at two spots.”
With the English season ending in early May, and Wright-Phillips being in and out of training with the team since then, Petke wasn’t ready to say that he’d be in the squad once his P-1 Visa is approved, but he seemed to point to Wright-Phillips seeing the field once he has his match fitness.
“He has to get in, get acclimated with the team, get his fitness 100 percent up and then we’ll take it from there about exactly where and when he’ll fit in,” Petke said. As soon as (the P-1 Visa is) official, I’ll be talking to the medical staff and talking to Bradley and figuring out exactly how he feels and where he’s at.”
Now that his club situation is settled, Wright-Phillips can focus on his soccer and settling into the New York area. He already knows Red Bulls midfielders Ruben Bover and Lloyd Sam from his days at Charlton (Bover was a teammate) and Man City (Sam was an opposing player), and will be looking to established new relationships with the rest of the squad as the team continues their quest for their first ever MLS Cup.
“I was over here for two weeks and then I went back (to England), and I couldn’t wait to get back (to New York), you know?” Wright-Phillips said. “It was really good and I had a lot of fun.”