Under the Radar: Could Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips really miss out on MLS All-Star nod?
HARRISON, N.J. – A quick look at the most recent numbers shows that Bradley Wright-Phillips sits in first place in the MLS Golden Boot race.
A quick look at the most recent numbers shows he isn’t even among the top seven forwards in MLS All-Star Game voting.
Wright-Phillips currently leads MLS with 15 goals in 17 appearances, a scoring tear that has included two hat-trick performances for the red-hot Englishman. As impressive as those numbers are, the final public tallying of fan ballots that came out last week for next month’s MLS All-Star Game had Wright-Phillips on the outside looking in.
He was no longer in seventh place as he had been in early June, the result of not being one of the more well-known players in the league. Wright-Phillips will likely miss out on the annual event – which culminates with a match against Bayern Munich on Aug. 6 – and the opportunity to represent the Red Bulls there, unless he makes it in via one of the other methods of entrance (AT&T/EA Sports "More than a Vote" Challenge, Commissioner's Pick or chosen by ASG coach Caleb Porter).
That’s something he wouldn't mind one bit, but isn't losing any sleep over.
“Yeah, of course [I’d like to be there]. You never know what could happen,” said Wright-Phillips following New York’s 4-1 win over the Columbus Crew on Saturday. “There’s a lot of good strikers out there, a lot of big names. I’d be flattered and honored if they call me, but I'm not thinking about that yet. We’ve got two more games this week, so get it out of the way. If I get a call, I’ll be buzzing.”
What exactly has kept Wright-Phillips from getting the type of recognition that would normally befit the league’s hottest scorer? Aside from not being one of the bigger names in MLS, the 29-year-old forward also isn't especially outspoken on social media, nor is he the flashiest of players.
He is capable of the occasional crafty backheel flick or dribbling move, but for the most part he is a pure finisher with speed who gets on the end of things in the penalty area.
Some observers have stated that a detriment to his cause is the fact that he plays with Thierry Henry, an All-Star lock who has assisted on a good chunk of Wright-Phillips' goals this season. But few forwards, if any, in MLS can say they have scored most of their tallies without some form of consistent service, and playing with Henry is not as simple it might seem from the outside.
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“He’s playing the position a lot better. It’s not easy to – I’ve said this in the past – to play with Thierry Henry up front,” said head coach Mike Petke. “He likes to go all over the place and we want him to.
“It’s not easy [to complement that]. They have developed such a good relationship those two. There’s trust there."
Wright-Phillips might not make it to Portland in a few weeks when MLS’ top players come together for a few days of fun next month, but that should not diminish what he has accomplished during the first half of the season, especially his current run, in which he's scored six goals in his last six games and 14 in his last 11.
“We talk about strikers being streaky, but his streak is just continuing,” said Petke. “He got hot whenever that was the first goal he scored this year, and he just didn’t let up. He’s really a true striker in the sense that he has that nose for the goal. I’m very proud of him. I’m very glad that we have him.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.