New York Red Bull forwards Fabian Espindola and Peguy Luyindula have been battling it out all year long to secure their position as the primary strike partner to Thierry Henry.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has already made both men an afterthought.
Debuting in a turmoil-laden, Thierry Henry-less encounter against D.C. United, Wright-Phillips shined, pressing the D.C. backline and leading the charge in a revived Red Bull offense. His second match, this time with the infamous Arsenal legend by his side, was perhaps more impressive. The Englishman was credited with an assist, but clearly played an integral role in two goals as the Red Bulls steamrolled Houston 4-1.
Wright-Phillips has been worth the wait, especially for a Red Bull side desperate for a spark in the final weeks of a competitive season.
“Starting from the top, Bradley and Thierry done excellent,” friend and teammate Lloyd Sam noted. “Brad won every header up there and held up the ball well.”
It wasn’t just his play in the final third that received plaudits. Both Wright-Phillips and Henry were commended for their two-way play.
“Defending starts from the front and I think after starting from last week, we started to pin point things to get better at for the playoffs,” Jonny Steele noted. “Every game we are treating as a playoff game; defending from the front and every player doing their job. Titi and Bradley started it and I think every guy put their body on the line.
“Bradley and Thierry definitely had a good understanding with each other,” head coach Mike Petke acknowledged. “When one was going long, one came short. They played off each other nicely as far as flicking on. For me, (Saturday) for both Thierry and Bradley, the defensive part of it was what stood out in my mind. Their discipline and their willingness to be a part of it was great.”
While making an impact both offensively and defensively, Wright-Phillips even managed to inspire some team unity, particularly after Steele’s goal.
“It was Brad’s idea,” Sam said, laughing when asked about the awkward dance celebration from the trio. “Ask Brad.”
Wright-Phillips faces his next challenge this Saturday as New York hosts Toronto. By the looks of things, and in surprisingly short time, the starting spot now seems to be his to lose.