HARRISON, N.J. – Maybe Bradley Wright-Phillips should take sick days before games a bit more often.
On Tuesday, the 29-year-old Englishman missed practice and was doubtful for the game with flu-like symptoms. Twenty-four hours later, his hat trick led the Red Bulls to a thunderous 4-0 win over the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena.
“It’s not easy to partner along someone like Thierry [Henry] and I mean that in a good way because Thierry is a guy that likes to drop and he’s so creative that a lot of times there’s only one guy up front,” New York head coach Mike Petke told reporters after the match. “It’s not an easy task for somebody. Bradley’s accepted that throughout this year and he knows he’s the guy that has to occupy the center backs for large chunks [of a game].
“We thought it was only a matter of time before he got a goal and then got a bit hot, but three goals tonight? I didn’t see this coming. Nothing against his ability or anything, it’s just that’s not an easy thing to do, score a hat-trick.”
The veteran striker showed his nose for goal in the win en route to becoming the first English player to score a hat-trick in MLS and first Red Bulls player to do so since Henry did it back on March 31, 2012 in a 5-2 win over Montreal. But Wright-Phillips also demonstrated other qualities that have been a bit overlooked amid his six-game scoring drought, including his propensity to stretch and harass the back line with his speed and never-ending motor.
“Definitely, we need a forward like him,” Kosuke Kimura told MLSsoccer.com. “Each team wants somebody who can run all day, sacrifices his body to get the ball for us, secure the ball. I’m a defender, I know. We hate it.”
Wright-Phillips was lying in bed with a fever a little more than 24 hours from kickoff. He was under the weather and forced to miss New York’s final training session, but he rested and took antibiotics to ensure he could play.
Then, once he got the nod from Petke on Wednesday, he showed his quick recovery was no fluke. He finished off a pair of quality first-half passing sequences, and converted a penalty kick late in the match to ice the cake.
“Three goals is always good” said Wright-Phillips, who has a team-high four on the season. “Even if I was playing with my friends anywhere, I’d be happy with three goals. I’m happy with a hat-trick for the Red Bulls. It’s good.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.