ORLANDO, Fla. - When you sit down to speak with the previous season’s Golden Boot winner, there is an obvious question to be asked.
Though when that player has the humility of Bradley Wright-Phillips, you might not get the answer you’re looking for.
Asked at MLS Media Day in Los Angeles last week about his record-tying 27 goal campaign in 2014, Wright-Phillips said, “To be honest with you, I was annoyed with all the attention; I felt like it was a lot of attention and coverage. I couldn’t go anywhere without talking about it.”
It’s a new year for BWP though and with a new coach in place and a new system being implemented, the 29-year-old forward had plenty to face forward on as camp began earlier this week.
“It’s been exciting to start back up again,” he told NewYorkRedBulls.com. “After three weeks of the winter break I was ready to get back and now I regret feeling like that! The work’s really hard but it’s a lot of fun and it’s been good to see the boys again.
Another of the team’s senior players that is responding well to new head coach Jesse Marsch’s system, Wright-Phillips pointed to the new manager’s direct instruction as being key to player buy-in early on in camp.
“He talks one-on-one a lot on how he wants us to play and work. What we should expect from him. There’s nothing to question. When he says something, he means it and you go through with it. If not, he’ll figure a way to think like he’s thinking.”
Following up 27 goals
While he may not want to talk about it, his record-tying goal count from 2014 went a long way to earning a Designated Player contract with the Red Bulls this season. He gains the new deal and will continue to lead the line this season without Thierry Henry, who provided assists on 10 of Wright-Phillips’s 21 goals from the run of play last season.
With Henry gone, rather than do a like-for-like replacement, Marsch has again focused on the collective in trying to provide strength in midfield that will allow the striker to continue finding his way into dangerous positions this season.
“If you look through his career he’s scored goals almost every where he’s been,” Marsch said this week. “Bradley is so smart in the way he moves and the way he makes space for himself around the goal. The key for him to find success having players around him that understand how to help him and give him the kind of balls that lead him to goal.”
We saw what Marsch was talking about this week when the club acquired Brazilian attacker Felipe from Montreal as well as earning the transfer of U.S. international midfielder Sacha Kljestan from Belgian side Anderlecht.
Asked about the new reinforcements, Wright Phillips was encouraged.
“Obviously I’ve played against Felipe and seen what he’s capable of. He’s a good player I’m excited to link up with. I don’t know much about Sacha but I do hear from the local boys, the American guys, that he’s a nice player. He’s box-to-box, gets goals and I feel like he’s something we need.”
A Collective Identity
Along with the theme of high tempo play, Marsch has also emphasized to his new players the need to build a collective identity, rather than have to lean on or let one player define his team.
While that may not have been intentional in the past, the emphasis is a positive change for the new season according to Wright-Phillips.
“I think that happened with the big name players we’ve had, sometimes I think the players looked to them in big brother roles to get us out of situations. Now, everyone is on the same level. We’re all stepping up and accepting our roles in the team now.”
And while every player is accepting a bigger role in the side, teammate and goalkeeper Luis Robles has said Wright-Phillips will be key to the success of the team this season, not just because of his play but because of his overall approach.
“He’s the type of player every coach would like to have,” said Robles. “He’s a difference maker, he’s all about the success of the team and even when he does well individually, he continues to parlay that success upon everyone else. In order for this team to be successful, he’ll be a huge part of it. If he continues to do the things that he’s done, there’s no reason for me to think our team won’t be successful.”