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Bradley Wright-Phillips still working his way back from lengthy layoff

After a touch-and go season that has seen New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips record less 800 minutes on the field, there is hope that the two-time MLS Golden Boot winner will be back in the fold soon.

On Saturday the Red Bulls fought to a disappointing 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution at home. A knock to Red Bulls forward Brian White in the 30th minute gave Wright-Phillips his longest stretch of game time since April, and the veteran striker said he felt good after his longest appearance in months, an appearance that nearly produced a game-winning goal if not for a highlight-reel save from Revs goalkeeper Matt Turner in second-half stoppage time.

“(I felt) surprisingly good,” Wright-Phillips said. “I was worried not getting much of a warmup. It helped that I got in a little bit in the first half and then obviously not good circumstances with Brian going down injured but it helped, that 15 minutes or 20 minutes, to get me kind of warmed up.”

Wright-Phillips is not back to full health yet, however. He noted that with respect to his general fitness, he has felt up and down.

“It’s like some days I feel good and then another day I won’t,” Wright-Phillips admitted. “Like today I wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel, but apart from one action in the game I felt good.”

“It’s important that Brad is getting these minutes,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “He’s a guy that we’ve relied on so much over the years to get us goals. He’s a winner, so it’s pretty obvious that it’s good that he’s out there and his presence.

“And listen, how he did, worked hard as he always does against the ball and got himself in a number of good spots,” Armas added. “Almost helped us set up the game-winner and, yeah, there’s a lot of happy people in that locker room to see him back out there.”

While things may be looking up now, this season has been tough for Wright-Phillips. In 2018 Wright Phillips was an MLS All-Star, CONCACAF Best XI honoree, and New York Red Bulls MVP. This season he has scored twice and assisted twice while only starting six games.

“Very frustrating. It’s tough because I see Brian and Tommy come in and they play well, it’s made me rest a little easier,” Wright-Phillips said. “Someone that’s capable of doing the job. The job that I’ve been doing for a long time. But it’s not easy to sit out of the team.”

Like most Red Bulls fans, Wright-Phillips hopes that his appearance on Saturday is a sign that a page is turning on his season.

“I would hope so,” Wright-Phillips said. “It depends how I’m training, and how I’m looking, what Chris sees. I think tonight I answered a few questions that they probably want me to answer. Obviously not putting the ball in the back of the net, but being in those areas and feeling sharp.”

As one of the most prolific strikers to ever play in MLS, Wright-Phillips still has a lot to offer a Red Bulls side that has struggled, at times, in the final third. As the team goes on to face rivals D.C. United on Wednesday, followed by New York City FC next weekend, Wright-Phillips is sure to have a major part to play in the rest of the Red Bulls’ season.

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