If there was any member of the New York Red Bulls that benefitted from the mind-numbing defeat in Vancouver this past weekend, it was Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Wright-Phillips likely saw his stock go up -- a result of both his play in the Red Bulls’ surprising 4-1 loss vs. the Whitecaps on Saturday, in which he scored his team's only goal, and for the lack of pure forward options New York have behind star striker Thierry Henry.
With Henry sitting the season opener out due to the turf surface at BC Place, head coach Mike Petke opted to start a fatigued Tim Cahill and attacking utility-man Peguy Luyindula up top and neither was able to carry the offensive load in Henry’s absence. That shouldn't be entirely surprising given that Luyindula has been used more as a midfielder than a forward recently while Cahill needs a natural forward to play off of.
Regardless, it further adds to the argument that Wright-Phillips should be starting when Henry is not in the lineup, even if the Englishman had no interest in talking about such matters following the lopsided loss.
“In a 4-1 defeat, I don’t really care about the goal,” said Wright-Phillips of his late headed strike, which he nicked past 'Caps 'keeper David Ousted. “I just gambled. The ball was in the air. Luckily, I got to it [and] it went in.”
The goal should not hurt Wright-Phillips’ chances of starting this weekend in New York’s home opener against the Colorado Rapids (Saturday, 4 pm ET, MLS Live), and neither will his chemistry with Jonny Steele and Lloyd Sam. The three are good friends off the field, and on the field they constantly seem to be on the same page. That was the case in preseason, and continued into MatchDay 1 with Sam picking up the assist on Wright-Phillips' goal.
“Me, Lloyd, Jonny, we talk a lot in the training ground or before the games,” Wright-Phillips told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it helps going into the games, but they are just easy guys to play with.”
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Henry is set to return this weekend, so the possibility of Wright-Phillips beginning the game against the Rapids on the bench remains. Petke, however, could choose to deploy both forwards in an effort to correct the mistakes the second-year head coach admittedly made in Week 1 and further fortify his attack.
“You could see towards the end of the  season, he would’ve been a great asset for us in the playoffs but we didn’t go further, unfortunately for us,” Henry told reporters of Wright-Phillips last week. “This year he came back. He scored [three times in the preseason]. … Now [that he’s] ready you can see, hopefully, more of [his] value and how valuable [he] can be for us.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.