CARSON, Calif.—Bradley Wright-Phillips has been Major League Soccer's deadliest finisher over the past five seasons, but his knack for setting up others is increasingly an element of the New York Red Bulls' dynamic attack, and it had much to do with their 3-2 victory Saturday night over the LA Galaxy.
It portends good things as the Red Bulls (4-3-0) go forward, especially as Alejandro "Kaku" Romero Gamarra continues to acclimate to his new club and finds common ground with the English striker.
Wright-Phillips and Kaku teamed up to create goals at the start of both halves as New York opened a 2-0 lead on LA – the fourth straight home game the Galaxy have fallen behind by that tally – and they might have produced more with better fortune. Kaku struck the winning penalty kick in the 84th minute, following a handball in the box by Dave Romney.
Wright-Phillips' willingness to serve as facilitator is providing greater dimension to the attack, which has 17 goals in seven league games and 25 in 13 encounters, including those in the Red Bulls' run to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals.
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“He's such a great goalscorer that people lose track of what a great footballer he is,” New York head coach Jesse Marsch told MLSsoccer.com afterward. “We're still working through some of the relationship of him and Kaku and then how everything works around them.
“In the meantime, Brad's going to score his goals, but the more that he can set things up [the better for the team], and certainly he made two great plays tonight. A lot of it was the result of Kaku looking for Bradley early and then Brad being able to make another play.”
The tandem hooked up in the seventh minute, when the Argentine midfielder's ball over the top found Wright-Phillips on the right side of the Galaxy box, and Daniel Royer tapped home his cross to the far post. They did so again in the 49th, when Kaku flicked a ball over center back Jorgen Skjelvik to send the Englishman sprinting toward goal to feed Florian Valot.
“I'm just doing what the game gives me,” Wright-Phillips said. “Wherever there's space, I'm trying to get in and see what plays I can make. The game's providing that, and I'm just trying to do it. I don't just want to be known for goals. If I can get an assist and help the team, I'll try to do it.”
He has five MLS goals this year – behind only Atlanta United's Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, who have six apiece – and eight in all competitions, and the assists gave him four in MLS and seven total.
His connection with Kaku is vital.
“Kaku's just continuing to integrate,” Marsch said. “He's continuing to understand the tactics, he's continuing to fit into our system, and his ease of playing and slowing things down is exactly what we need.”
Wright-Phillips said that Kaku “looks forward all the time, and that's the kind of player I like.”
“I feel like when we're really at it [in the attack], we're very hard to stop,” he said. “I think we've got to bring that consistency, we've got to bring that every week. But on our day, we're hard to stop.”
Every goal counts the same, so is there as much satisfaction setting up a teammate as there is putting the ball into the net? Uh, well – no.
“It's nice, but I like to score,” Wright-Phillips said. “I like to be on the end of them, but it is nice.”
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