If media attention is of any indication, the pressure will be on Bradley Wright-Phillips to reproduce last season’s form, which saw the London-born striker net a league-leading 29 goals.
Swarmed by journalists at the Red Bulls 2015 Media Day, which was held at the Webster Hall concert venue in downtown Manhattan, Wright-Phillips was quick to dispel the notion that he is obsessed with achieving a similar tally. “I don’t go out thinking I’m going to get thirty-one goals in a season. I go out and try to work hard, and try to get on the end of chances.”
Wright-Phillips, who appeared ill-at-ease throughout the event, and readily admitted to being “out of his comfort zone,” also added that his success would be the result of teamwork, stating that if he scored as many goals as last season, it would “be down to the team,” because “it’s [not] about one player.”
The there’s no I in team theme continued – albeit a little more sourly – as Wright-Phillips answered questions about his dependence on Thierry Henry’s assists. “Will I score without Henry?” he shot back at a reporter after being asked if he was concerned about not having the Frenchman around anymore. “I feel that’s a little disrespectful to the team.”
Disrespectful or not, there are some of the opinion that life will be a little harder for the striker without Henry, even though Sacha Kljestan has been brought in from Belgian club, Anderlecht, to mitigate the former totemic captain’s departure.
Ensuring that Wright-Phillip’s form doesn’t take a dip will certainly be one of Jesse Marsch’s main priorities. According to the Englishman, the coach has been “brilliant” so far, bringing with him a work ethic that “the boys have benefitted from,” and that all the players were working harder than they did last season.
When I asked Wright-Phillips whether he’d had to make any adjustments to his game in order to adapt to Marsch’s tactics, he claimed that he “didn’t see anything there to affect [his] game.” A good sign for any fan expecting to see the Londoner deliver on his new designated player status.
Naturally, with a threat of player strike looming, Wright-Phillips was asked about the protracted negotiations between the MLSPU and the league. Like his teammates, he held his cards close to the chest, but admitted that he didn’t know much about the negotiations. Nevertheless, he did confirm that Dax McCarty and Luis Robles, the team’s union representatives, kept the players abreast of any developments.
As far as the rivalry with New York City Football Club is concerned, Wright-Phillips was enthusiastic about the significance of a local derby. “It can only make the [league] better. Every league in the world has a derby, a rivalry.
For the striker the derby will not only be about three points. “It will be for bragging rights. On a personal note, I love it. I can’t wait to play in that derby. You have to be at that game – the first one especially.”