The New York Red Bulls have scored 26 goals through the midway point of their season. Out of those 26, 14 belong to Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Wright-Phillips continues to lead MLS in scoring after bagging a brace in this past weekend’s 2-2 draw vs. the Houston Dynamo. But the veteran striker isn’t focusing all that much on his individual performances and accolades, as the Red Bulls’ seemingly unstoppable trend of conceding early has left him irritated about the club’s inability to string together victories.
“I think there’s no doubt as a team we’ve got good character, but we don’t need to be getting ourselves into those positions,” Wright-Phillips said after the tie in Houston on Friday, in which New York fell behind 43 seconds in. “It’s starting to feel like we’re doing it weekly. We’ve got to realize how important three points are and when we get our noses in front we’ve got to stay there, we’ve got to learn that because it gets a bit frustrating.”
The Red Bulls have fallen behind first 10 times in 17 games this season, and on seven of those occasions the opposition’s opening goal has startlingly come within the 12-minute mark. The July 4 match against the Dynamo was the most recent example, as Giles Barnes punished Mike Petke’s defense before some fans at BBVA Compass Stadium even took their seats.
On more than one occasion this year, the red-hot Wright-Phillips has pulled New York out of a hole. He scored twice against Houston to erase the early deficit and give the Red Bulls a 2-1 lead. But they eventually relinquished that advantage and the three points that would have come with it to a late, controversial penalty kick from Brad Davis.
Wright-Phillips was in no real mood after the game to talk about his latest goal-scoring performance. Not after seeing his team concede early again. Not after being forced to settle for a draw for the eighth time this season.
“I think it’s too early for me to say [that it’s a good point on the road],” said Wright-Phillips, who has netted 13 times in his last 10 games. “I’m still feeling a bit angry about the result because we went a goal up. It is what it is.”
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An argument can be made that the Red Bulls are relying too much on Wright-Phillips right now. Yes, they are riding the hot hand but it seems inevitable that the pace at which he is scoring goals will slow down at some point.
That is why it is imperative for the team to start ridding itself of the troubling habit of trailing first while also having other players help carry the scoring load.
“Without him, who knows where we’d be right now but we need other guys to step up,” Petke said. “We need our defense to step up, we need our midfield, we need everybody around to step up."
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.