HANOVER, N.J. – Despite a prolific goal scoring rate in MLS, he’s been billed by his head coach Jesse Marsch as one of the most humble superstars he has been around. Bradley Wright-Phillips certainly lives up to those words, a man who loves the game and the team but hates the limelight.
The New York Red Bulls ace striker doesn’t like talking to the media, mainly because he doesn’t like talking about himself. Ask about his teammates and Wright-Phillips opens up. But talk about his two Golden Boot titles or being a finalist for MVP last year and the all-time leading scorer in franchise history sort of shrugs it off.
He’s a man who enjoys being low-key, except of course when he’s on the field and showing the form that has seen him twice selected to the MLS Best XI.
Bradley Wright-Phillips came to the Red Bulls on trial in the summer of 2013 and it was assumed at the time by fans and the media that it was a gimmick to get his high-profile brother, Shaun Wright-Phillips, to consider a move to New York. After all, the club did have a reputation of signing the siblings of famous soccer players (John Rooney, anyone? Digao?) in the past.
Turns out that his form was just fine on its own.
A successful loan stint and 73 goals in league play later and BWP is now a club legend. But when he came over on trial he didn’t know what to expect.
All he knew was that Thierry Henry was a part of the team.
“I came here for the experience really. I knew Thierry was here and it’d be nice to train with him. I came for the experience,” Wright-Phillips said.
“I wanted to see what it was like, wanted to see what the league [was]. I didn’t think that far ahead. Wanted to see what the facilities were like.”
He Wants His MTV
Prior to coming to MLS, Wright-Phillips admittedly didn’t know much about the league. He also didn’t know much about the tri-state area.
The Red Bulls training facility, located in Morris County about 40 minutes west of Manhattan, is obviously in New Jersey. And all he knew about the state coming in was from a rather famous reality show on MTV.
“Jersey Shore, I used to watch it a lot. I didn’t know much else about New Jersey at the time. Now I love the area,” Wright-Phillips said.
His favorite character?
“The ‘Situation.’ He’s a legend,” he said referring to the infamous Mike Sorrentino, who grew up in New Jersey.
Defender Aaron Long, sitting next to Wright-Phillips, shakes his head and laughs.
In 2014, Wright-Phillips scored 27 goals to tie the all-time MLS single-season mark. Last year he found the net 24 times, becoming the first MLS player to put up more than 20 goals in a season twice in his career.
He’s signed two Designated Player contracts since his initial deal, including a new deal early this spring. His face is plastered around Red Bull Arena and on advertisements and commercials – yet he bristles when called a superstar.
“I don’t think it’s true. There are people who have done well in the game and they are superstars. I think I’ve done well. What class of superstar…for a guy of my caliber. It’s a bit embarrassing to say superstar,” Wright-Phillips said.
That goal scoring record, especially the 27 goals in 2014 though…
“You got me on that one,” he said. “But I don’t think everything I bring to the table…I don’t think I’m a superstar.”
Cap RWP Now
Recently, Wright-Phillips’ older brother Shaun saw his son become a part of England’s U-17 national team. Bradley’s children are much younger, but he thinks he could have a player on his hands in young RWP.
His son Ryan is only four-years-old and just started playing in a local league, but he’s already is making an impression on his proud father. Cue the hype around RWP.
“I can’t lie, he’s got a nice left foot, can dribble the ball,” Wright-Phillips said. “He understands, he can play. He watches our games so he knows the game.”
And he may be better than dad was at his age.
“Better than me? I think so, I do think so,” Wright-Phillips said.
But will he suit up for England or the United States (Wright-Phillips just got his green card this spring)?
“It depends how long I’m here.”
Eyeing the future
Having just turned 32, Wright-Phillips isn’t going to hang things up anytime soon. But he admits to now beginning to think about his future.
His current form of four goals in 11 games is certainly an indicator of a player still very much in his groove. But his post-playing career is something he now considers more and more.
“I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave yet. I don’t miss England yet,” he said.
“I haven’t settled on anything but I do wonder. I am getting a little bit older now, obviously. I have to think about after the game. It’s not coming that soon. It does go through my mind a little bit, it didn’t before. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just need to be out of the house.”
Wright-Phillips' agent is the powerful Darren Dein, one of the top soccer agents in the world. His clients include the aforementioned Henry and the likes of Cesc Fabregas.
Dein is respected around the world and one of the most powerful men in the sport.
“He’s a family friend. Ever since growing up with Man City, playing football, he and my uncle have looked after me. They’ve got some big names, you know? Names that I don’t come close to,” Wright-Phillips said. “Sometimes I think they’re doing me a favor. They’ve done a lot for me, I’m thankful.”
Breakfast with the EPL
Even though he’s an ocean away, the Red Bulls forward still follows the English Premier League closely.
On Saturday mornings, he claims to watch all three matches shown on NBC Sports Network. That means that he is up by 7 a.m. on the weekends - “I don’t miss a game.”
And then he very often goes to Red Bull Arena to play a match that night.
He says his wife is on board with his precious Saturday routine.
“She just goes into the other room. She’s alright with it,” he said. “Probably because it means I’m not talking.”
Last year during the team’s 1-6 start, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch admitted that he does yard work to take out his aggression. Wright-Phillips isn’t handy – “But I do know how to call someone to fix something around the house.”
He prefers to analyze his performance when he’s in a funk.
“When it isn’t going well, I try to watch video. I look at the last game and watch, see what I could do differently. Then try to take that into training,” he said.
“I’m moody. My wife would say other things about me. I’m not the nicest guy to be around.”
So many stars who come to this league want to live in New York City, a decision made by Henry and former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty, among many others. But that isn’t this star’s lifestyle.
Now, he does enjoy going into New York City with his wife to walk around and have dinner, but count Wright-Phillips among those who prefer lawn chairs and hedges to bright lights. He’s just a suburban father after all.
“I love it, I love it. Got the yard space, no one is rushing around like London where it’s all argy-bargy. Being here is so much slower, I know my routine here,” he said. “I pick up the kids and I’m literally chilling out the rest day.”
Stuck on a desert island
His teammates say that he’s a bit of a film buff and that’s one label that Wright-Phillips doesn’t shrug off. He likes his movies as a way to unwind.
He recently watched the Garth Davis-directed picture Lion which he hails as a “great film.” But if the Red Bulls superstar was stuck on an island and could bring just three movies to watch, what would they be?
“The Wanderers…I’d take…this is tough. Can I take a box set?” he asks. It is the first time all interview he appears perplexed.
Sure, why not? Can’t say no to a man who twice has led MLS in scoring.
“Then Game of Thrones. This is going to be tough. Maybe Money Talks with Chris Tucker,” he said.
He pauses briefly then makes a shocking last-minute addendum.
“No, no, make that Friday. Yeah, yeah. Friday.”