After what has seemed like a very long time indeed, Major League Soccer is back.
Friday night MLS was welcomed home the New York Red Bulls who defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1 on a sweltering summer’s night.
Bradley Wright-Phillips returns, Brian White shines
Also back was Red Bulls star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who hadn’t donned the double bulls since way back on April 20. In BWP’s protracted absence the club seems to have found an heir apparent in 23 year-old Flemington, New Jersey native Brian White, who’s 59th minute goal stood up as the match winner on Friday night.
The goal was also White’s team leading fifth of the season, impressive given that White has started just eight times this season, with two further substitute appearances.
With White’s fifth goal coming on a night when Wright-Phillips replaced his younger colleague in a 67th minute substitution, High Press Soccer asked Red Bulls coach Chris Armas what White’s emergence has meant to his squad.
Armas was full of praise for the 2018 first round draft choice out of Duke, calling White, “a version of Brad.” Still, even as proud as the Red Bulls coach is of the team’s vaunted talent pipeline, Armas admitted that until you see it at the MLS level, potential is just that, potential.
“He’s scored goals at all levels,” the coach noted, “and now (we see) he can he score them at this level. We think he can, but you know, now you see that he can.” Proof being in the pudding, an all that.
Armas called BWP “Brian’s biggest fan and mentor,” and said that Wright-Phllips, is “still coaching him along the way,” adding, “it’s really nice to see on the inside the relationship with those two.”
After a win, of course, everything tends to be pretty congenial, but there does appear to be a harmonious vibe between Wright-Phillps and the young man who may one day push him aside, even if Wright-Phillip downplayed his role as a ”mentor,” when HIgh Press Soccer relayed Armas’ evaluation.
“I help out where I can,” a modest Wright-Phillips began, “but if I’m if I’m being, you know totally honest, he’s a mature guy.” “I think,” he veteran striker continued, “you can tell through his game, he doesn’t get too excited, when he’s not scoring he’s not too angry. You know? He’s just a level headed guy.”
“I help out where I can but he’s doing all right. I don’t need to go in there and start confusing him. You know he’s playing well and he’s been one of our best players so you know I’m happy for him.”
As for White, the rising striker acknowledges Wright-Phillip’s role in his development and wisely, seems only too happy to take his advice on board. “Yeah you know, he’s always had a couple words here and there for me, to you know, improve my game.” White explained, “coming out of halftime he told me to be more selfish and get in the box and get on the enemy, so I try to listen, obviously. I got in the box as best I could and got a goal out of it, so you know, I try to take in everything I can that he tries to teach me.”
That seems like a smart policy on White’s behalf. Mentorship aside, Wright-Phillips clearly rates his young teammate.
“I don’t know where to start with Brian,” BWP said. “I’m a big fan of Brian. I think his all-around play is – I’m not sure you’ll notice this – but I think it’s very underrated. I think his finishing is top class, he proves that every day in training.”
Wright-Phillips continued, “even the shift he puts in today, it’s not easy for him, you know he’s not getting a lot of touches and he gets his goal, and I’m delighted for him. And I always say, you know, these young guys – even Tom (Barlow) as well – it’s one thing to play well when you just come off the bench and you’re excited, your first game, you’re playing with adrenaline. But these guys now, you know, fans expecting stuff of them, and they’re still delivering and that’s when you know you see a good player, credit to him.”
As for his own game, Wright-Phillips is clearly thrilled to be back.
Sitting in front of his locker, post-game, the Red Bulls all-time leading goal scorer said,“Yeah, it was amazing to be out there, I was like a kid, man, back at school.”
Wright-Phillips put his name in the scoresheet with an injury time assist on Daniel Royer’s clincher, when he sprung marauding fullback Kyle Duncan with a perfectly weighted break out pass to end the match as a contest.
Chicago will be frustrated with this loss, especially given a 26 to 10 advantage in shots. However, Chicago could only challenge New York keeper Luis Robles with eight shots on target, and could slip just one rebounded effort past the Red Bulls dynamic keeper.
The victory puts further distance between the fourth place Red Bulls and Chicago, who sit in the place, one position below the Eastern Conference playoff line.