HARRISON, N.J.—If there was any lingering doubt about Bradley Wright-Phillips being back to his best, it likely vanished on Saturday.
Wright-Phillips set the MLS record for fastest hat-trick from the start of a game, and led the Red Bulls to a 3-0 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday night. His performance at Red Bull Arena was clinical, as he scored on the only looks he had inside of 27 minutes.
“Everyone wanted to talk so much about how Brad wasn't scoring in the beginning of the year and where was he at,” said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch. “All I just kept saying is our belief in him is at the highest level, and that's not just me talking. That's our entire group.
“We see him every day. We see all the quality he has, and it's only a matter of time before he gets himself going. When he does, then the goals start to come in bunches, so here he is now. He's leading the league in scoring, right? I mean, that says it all.”
The Wright-Phillips that put on a show vs. short-handed Toronto FC was not the same one that started 2016 on a major dry spell.
Wright-Phillips first scored on a well-placed header in the fourth minute, then capped a quick counterattack with a strong finish to the near post in the 25th minute. He struck again two minutes later, rifling a shot home from the right side of the penalty area.
Wright-Phillips now has eight goals in his last seven games – after zero in the seven matches before that, and the only thing he believes has changed is having a “little bit of luck” on his side.
“I said that at the beginning of the season,” said Wright-Phillips, who passed Thierry Henry for second place on the Red Bulls’ all-time scoring list on Saturday. “I was getting chances and some of them were bad finishes and some of them were unlucky. When you get on these little streaks, they go in.
“Who is to say in two weeks, [the media] might be asking me, ‘What’s going wrong?’ It’s just how it goes, for a striker especially.”
With Wright-Phillips going right, New York are riding a three-game winning streak, and their attack has been firing on all cylinders: they've scored 11 goals during that stretch. The club is also currently second place in the Eastern Conference after going 5-1-1 in their last seven games to effectively put a slow start in the rearview mirror.
“Regardless of how his season started, our belief in [Brad] has always been high,” said Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. “I’ve been his teammate now since 2013 and I know that they come in bunches and there’s a point where everything he touches. Sooner or later, that was going to happen.“