After training with the club for nearly two months, general manager Ali Curtis finally pulled the trigger, bringing the former Manchester City and England star aboard as the Red Bulls look to make a push for MLS Cup.
Wright-Phillips comes to the club from recently relegated English side Queens Park Rangers, where the 33-year-old saw his playing time diminish. Now, what started as a stateside trip to be the best man at his brother’s, who just happens to be Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, wedding has turned into a golden opportunity for Wright-Phillips to rejuvenate his career in much the same mold as his younger brother has done. As the two brothers get set to suit up side-by-side for the first time in 11 years, the former Chelsea man already feels like he belongs.
“[Head coach Jesse Marsch] caught me in the airport and asked me to train just to keep my fitness up, and it kind of all fell into place,” Wright-Phillips told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I think as much as I wanted to be there, I thought the feeling was pretty mutual between me and the teammates and the coaching staff.
“It felt like I was just in a family, and that’s kind of what it felt like when I was 19 and I first started breaking through at Manchester City. So I’m very welcome to be here right now, and I’m very humble at the same time. And hopefully I can do exactly what you guys expect me to do and help the Red Bulls win in MLS.”
While admittedly being a move that goes against their policy of signing young talent, it was one they simply could not pass up, according to Marsch. Already entrenched within the first team thanks to his extensive time on the training pitch, Wright-Phillips proved to be a valuable commodity, forcing Marsch to reconsider the nature of his stay with the club.
“As time went on, I think we could all see that his desire to be here grew,” Marsch said. “It became an easy decision for me to go to Ali and start to talk to him that even though, with the direction of our club, looking to get younger that there would be outliers in the process and that given where we were positionally, given the experience, given the savviness in the attacking part of the field, we just felt that Shaun was the perfect addition. So I'm honored to have him on our team.”
As has been stated throughout the year, any additions to the Red Bulls roster would have to fit their style, not only on the field but also in the locker room, as well. In Wright-Phillips, New York appear to have found a player that checks all the boxes as they gear up for their playoff push.
“There'd be days, and I think Jesse will tell you, where he's arguably been our best finisher on some training days, and it's been fantastic in that respect,” Curtis said. “Getting to know Shaun over the last month, you know that the type of environment we're trying to cultivate and we're trying to develop over time; he fits into that. He fits in well with the locker room, and if you talk to any of the guys that are on the roster, they enjoy not only playing with Shaun but hanging out with him, talking shop with him, so he fits kind of what we're trying to do as a club. And he's an excellent soccer player, so he fits in well.
"We're looking forward to this stretch of the season and him helping us immensely.”
The addition of Wright-Phillips will surely bolster the attacking corps for New York, but another change appears to be on the way as Curtis revealed on Tuesday afternoon.
“The window’s still open,” Curtis added. “I’m working very hard to try to see if there’s any other player that we’ll add to this roster, and I think there’s a strong likelihood that we will. We’ll just have to take each day at a time.”