The New York Red Bulls may have found the ideal forward partner for Thierry Henry in the form of Bradley Wright-Phillips who delivered a second consecutive impressive outing as a starter in Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
Wright-Phillips was involved in the match from the opening whistle, taking good touches throughout, helping set up Henry’s winner in the second half, constantly challenging a Dynamo defense that was simply overwhelmed, and nearly scoring a goal of his own.
It was the type of showing that has eluded the Red Bulls’ other main forward options, wayward finisher Péguy Luydindula and streaky Fabián Espíndola, and could be why Wright-Phillips continues to start ahead of them as the season winds down and pressure picks up.
“Bradley and Thierry definitely had a good understanding with each other,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters after the victory at BBVA Compass Stadium. “When one was going long, one was coming short. They were playing off each other nicely as far as flicking on.
“But at the end of the day, for me, tonight for both Thierry and Bradley, the defensive part of is what really stuck out in my mind. Their willingness to be a part of it as a team was great.”
That was not the only facet of the game where Wright-Phillips showed well. The speedy 28-year-old forward demonstrated good soccer IQ with some quick, one-touch passes to relieve pressure, and he also leaped high into the air in the 47th minute to keep a ball in play that Henry wound up slotting into the back of the net.
“I think he won every header up there and held up the ball well there,” said midfielder Lloyd Sam.
As good as Wright-Phillips has been, his inclusion next to Henry in the Red Bulls’ lineup is likely not yet set in stone. But that will surely change if the duo continues to churn out performances like the one in Houston on Sunday.
“Every game going into now, we’re treating as a playoff game and it’s defending from the front and every player doing their job,” midfielder Jonny Steele told reporters following Sunday's victory. “As you've seen today, Titi and Brad started it.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.