By RYAN TOLMICH
Prior to his current breakout campaign, New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips had developed a fairly consistent routine when it came to dealing with postgame questioning from the ever-present New York media.
“If it goes in, you guys talk to me,” Wright-Phillips told reporters Sunday after scoring in the Red Bulls 4-1 thrashing of the Columbus Crew. “If I don’t, I get showered, dried and go home.”
However, as one of the 2014 season’s breakout stars, the 29-year-old forward is getting more and more post-shower attention for his goal-scoring exploits.
The London-born Wright-Phillips is enjoying a breakout second season with the Red Bulls, leading MLS with 15 goals in the team’s first 18 games. While Wright-Phillips has enjoyed similar goal-scoring streaks in the past, such as a 22-goal campaign in 2011-12 with League One side Charlton Athletic, the Red Bulls forward has proven to be even better than expected for Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke.
“Perhaps he has exceeded some expectations,” Petke said. “We knew where he came from. We knew a bit about him, and we were hoping we could get some goals from him and he’s really on a great tear.”
Petke went on to praise Wright-Phillips’ chemistry with star striker Thierry Henry, mentioning the previous struggles of former Red Bulls in linking up with the former Arsenal star.
“There’s a price to pay when playing with Thierry Henry up front,” Petke said. “He likes to go all over the place and we want him to. Fabian (Espindola) last year, the lone striker up there, and (Kenny) Cooper the year before; it’s not easy, and they have developed such a great relationship those two. There’s trust there.”
“Bradley is our go-to-guy,” echoed Henry, who currently leads the league in assists with 9. “We all have to play for him.”
Wright-Phillips’ goal-scoring explosion sees him approaching new ground for the club, as no Red Bull has ever scored 20 goals in a single season. With the Red Bulls still having roughly half-a-season remaining, 20 looks to be a highly-attainable milestone for the red-hot Wright-Phillips.
“It would be great because he earned it and it would help us as a team,” said Petke, who played with current Red Bulls record holder Juan Pablo Angel. “You talk about strikers being streaky and his streak is just continuing. He got hot when he scored his first goal this year and he just wouldn’t let up. He’s a true striker because he has that nose for goal and I’m very glad that we have him.”
However, Wright-Phillips is far from worried about goal-scoring records, although the 29-year-old admitted that he would be flattered to etch his name in the club’s record books.
“If it happens, it happens,” Wright-Phillips said. “There’s a first time for everything. I hope it can be me. If it’s not, there’ll be another time.”
For now, Wright-Phillips has other things to worry about: a slew of upcoming Red Bull games, a potential MLS All-Star Game appearance and perhaps another run to shower and dry off in time to talk to the media about his next goal.